The idea of Las Vegas means something different to Katie O’Neill. It’s home.
Her grandfather is Jack Binion, businessman and son of legendary casino magnate Benny Binion, so it’s safe to say growing up in Las Vegas was extra Vegas-y for O’Neill, who went to the University of Pennsylvania to study art history and worked in the New York City gallery world before returning to the desert in 2009.
“Now when I go into the older casinos Downtown and hear the sounds of the slots and that cigarette-y carpet smell, it’s like someone else smelling warm chocolate chip cookies,” she says. “I love Vegas, and I love that unique childhood I had. I really embraced it, which lead me to where I am now.”
O’Neill is the board chair of the developing Modern art museum set for Symphony Park, certainly one of the most exciting and anticipated cultural projects in the city’s history. After a period of re-establishing the project’s objectives—and raising more than $2 million for the museum—the board has partnered with the City of Las Vegas and is working hard to determine which Downtown parcel will be the perfect geographical fit for the city’s new art museum.
“We understand Vegas is unique, and what we’ll offer needs to represent who we are, this crazy, bright, new, 24-hour city,” she says. “People think of the Louvre or the Met, these old established museums with big artwork everyone recognizes, but this is going to be something very different. It will be very familiar and comfortable to walk into, with elements for art collectors and students and for someone who has never been to an art museum before.”