A potential loss of state funding has Barrick Museum rethinking its mission

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Beyond the Weekly
UNLV's Barrick Museum

The Marjorie Barrick Museum’s nearly 30,000 visitors in the past six months are largely due to its Ansel Adams exhibit, preceded by ones featuring Frida Kahlo and Stephen Hendee, all of which were direct gap-filling responses to the Las Vegas Art Museum’s closure.

With state funding cuts looming, officials are seeking creative ways to keep the museum’s doors open. One option includes turning the focus from its traditional anthropological mission to mainly art programming.

A contemporary Oaxacan art exhibit is on display through May 13 and Friday is the opening reception for the group art exhibit, Feminist/Las Vegas.

Aurora Giguet, program director of the 42-year-old UNLV museum, says much of the currently displayed American Indian art and artifacts would fold right into that new mission, and that she believes the community would be more supportive of an art museum.

That might require some restructuring, however. The museum was designed as a research and exhibit area focusing on the American Southwest and Mesoamerica cultures and natural environments.

UNLV spokesman Tony Allen says the cost for fiscal year 2011 is roughly $400,000 for the museum and its cultural resources and programming. Statewide programming pays $290,000 of that; the remaining funding is multi-sourced, including a national grant for an ornithology program, interest from endowment and a little revenue from archeology services. Ron Smith, vice president of the Division of Research and Graduate Studies, which oversees Barrick, welcomes the art, but says he’d also like to see the ornithology program, headed by John Klicka, visible in the gallery.

No decisions need be made just yet. The museum resources and the staff’s history of frugal spending have created a savings that would help keep it open for another year. Additionally, Giguet is looking into fundraisers, a reinstating of Friends of the Museum and new community programming to keep it safe for even longer.

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