Monday, March 30, 2009

The Big Challenge

Las Vegas -- Within 90 days, this city founded on risk-taking is supposed to break ground on one of its biggest cultural gambles to date: the $475-million Smith Center for the Performing Arts.

The ground-breaking is taking place at a challenging time for Las Vegas' biggest cultural institutions, which have been buffeted by the recession. Most notably, the Las Vegas Art Museum closed last month. The museum's closing and cutbacks elsewhere have raised questions about whether a city that in recent years has tried to cultivate a more sophisticated and cosmopolitan image can sustain a high-arts presence and fill the seats at its fancy new cultural center. Previously, Las Vegas attempted to lure out-of-towners away from the slot machines and showgirls by offering brand-name artworks at splashy venues such as the Guggenheim Hermitage Museum at the Venetian Resort, now closed, and casino magnate Steve Wynn's Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art.

By contrast, said Myron Martin, the Smith Center's president, the "vast majority" of patrons at the new performance hall downtown probably won't be tourists, but southern Nevada residents.

No comments: