Making UNLV’s Barrick Museum the new Las Vegas Art Museum makes a lot of sense

The Las Vegas Art Museum in 2009.
Photo: Ryan Olbrysh

The craziest thing happened at the closing of a Picasso retrospective at San Francisco’s Museum of Contemporary Art in 1940. Call it a sit-in of sorts. More than 1,000 visitors refused to leave until they’d “had their fill,” according to the museum.

Could you really blame them? Art is an experience, and their ride wasn’t over.

We can’t say that kind of devotion was displayed here when the Las Vegas Art Museum closed its doors to the public in 2009. In fact, the museum was rather quiet that day—and nearly every day leading up to its closure. But it wasn’t so much that the ride was over. The ride never really took off. Located in the West Sahara Library (which may as well be in the country, to some) and surrounded by planned housing communities, the museum wasn’t exactly in an area that was buzzing. Its exhibits were too contemporary, some argued, and too sophisticated for this community. But mostly, the museum’s lack of space for a permanent collection meant that it had to close when switching out temporary exhibits—for months.

But what of UNLV’s Barrick Museum as the new LVAM? Not only is Barrick, once a natural history museum, now part of the College of Fine Arts, but the university has been discussing plans with LVAM to bring the collection to UNLV.

Barrick solves many of the problems LVAM’s old location had. It’s centrally located with coffee shops, restaurants and demonstration gardens literally abutting its doors. And it could accommodate some of LVAM’s permanent art collection with room left over for rotating shows. That there’s not a casino to walk through means quality student field trips. Mostly, though, we’d no longer be a city without an art museum. We’d have an experience.

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Kristen Peterson

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