O Las Vegas! Wherefore Thou Art & Music?

bodiddley2smallcap1If you enjoy Las Vegas artisans and our local art culture and music facilities, then you have been hit squarely broadside by some very bleak cultural news this year. Cutting art and music programs, budgets, and related salaries is the order of the day. Less tourists mixed in with less local disposal incomes is becoming an all too common deadly Las Vegas economic cocktail.

Acerbated by our growing sour economy, it has been a brutal year for our community art venues. The Las Vegas Art Museum, which was once a thriving and community enriching organization, is now facing a major budget reduction of $1 million. Sadly, Libby Lumpkin, their hard-working executive director and visionary for the past three years has abruptly left, followed by a couple of other staff layoffs and hour reductions.

The monthly Las Vegas non-profit First Friday art, entertainment, and block neighborhood party event put on by Whirly Gig, Inc. is continuing to struggle with growth issues, despite their $2 entry fee, and, for the most part, is languishing in status quo. And so is the fading dream of creating a robust retro Las Vegas Arts District, resplended with galleries and restaurants.

Our local music industry has also been severely splintered and reduced to a mere skeleton of what it was in the Las Vegas heyday. The Las Vegas Philharmonic is fraught with debt issues and organizational challenges as it struggles to keep afloat and minimize their program reductions.

Ardent Las Vegas music fans and many of the local bands they once frequented are leaving town in droves. The 500-person Jillian’s music venue closed in the downtown Neonopolis in November. Ideally, it was conceived to support an all-ages music scene. It didn’t happen. The Neonopolis mall developer, Rohit Joshi, says it was closed to support another client that was to take over the space in 2009. Only time will tell. But other performers are taking their shows elsewhere, including the House of Blues, The Box Office, and Gameworks.

Throughout this year our struggling economy has brought a dismal end to many of our newer music venues including the Sin City Saloon, Squiggy’s, and Rox.

Off-Strip music venues, such as Charlie’s Bar; the enduring country music bastion, Saddle ‘N’ Spurs Saloon; and even the newly re-opened Pogo’s Tavern, featuring big band jazz groups, are trying desperately to survive, but having a hard go at it.

Music venue innovation, however, is key to the success for many local venues. Coffeehouses, such as ReJAVAnate and Canvas Café, are now quickly turning to music to bring in clients and, hopefully, boost their main business. Hopefully, this resurrection is in time to stave off future closures.

If there is another huge guiding light beacon amid our many art and music woes, pray that it will be the Smith Center for the Performing Arts. The Smith Center, listed among the 200 largest charities in the US, according to Forbes.com, is currently undertaking a $485 million project that is planned to break ground and, hopefully, take a firm foothold in our valley next year and will help to transform our cultural legacy. The center will be anchored by a 2,050-seat proscenium theater that will be a permanent performance home to the Las Vegas Philharmonic and Nevada Ballet Theatre, and include an education center with cabaret space, a smaller Black Box Theatre, outreach facilities and classroom space.

An innovative community spirit of giving is necessary to support the survival and growth of art and music venues. So, if you feel the holiday spirit of giving, please do. In lieu of cash, perhaps you can offer up your services to help with some of their projects and needs.

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Filed under art, Las Vegas, Music, Performances, travel

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