An open letter to Bob Beers regarding art in Las Vegas

Illustration: Cristina Paulos

Dear Bob,

As you know, your amendment to make the city’s Percent for Arts Program optional, rather than mandatory (defeated 6 to 1), upset a few people. They said that, in the larger context of things, the money spent (1 percent of all capital projects) is barely a speck in the budget. But there’s something else riling arts supporters and advocates: the social and institutional downplaying of the arts in the Las Vegas Valley.

Art is so greatly undervalued by the population at large here that many residents don’t even know how art permeates into a community. The Goodmans publicly note that every great civilization has had great art and great public art, but the conversation stops there. Some believe that art is merely decoration or leisure and, therefore, frivolous. Little is said around dinner tables about the role art plays in exercising the brain through critical thinking, processing of information and stimulating creativity, which ultimately leads to new ideas—whether in business, politics or urban design. Studies linking visual art and cognition continue to emerge, particularly when it comes to learning (and neurodegenerative disease). Then there’s the topic of community pride and identity, but we’ve already been over that.

Some argue that the arts shouldn’t be publicly funded, but cutting arts programs in a city without an art museum would be like making education cuts due to budgetary reasons, and we’d never do that. Oh, wait.

Tags: Opinion
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