The "Insider" Guide to Las Vegas: Part One -- Art on Display

Author: 
Rachel Hopkin

First of all, I should clarify that I’m not really an “insider” as I’ve lived in Vegas for little more than a year.  Still, in this is the most transient of cities, that could give me at least a small claim to a local perspective and it’s definitely true that I’m now familiar with certain aspects of the city that might elude the average visitor to these climes.

To be honest, my reason for writing this blog is quite selfish; one of the things about living in Las Vegas is that an unusual number of friends, acquaintances, friends of friends, and so on, pass through.  Since I’ve been here, I think I’ve had about 10-12 different sets of visitors stop by, which for sure never happened in rural Kentucky where I was previously based.  After all, this city gets nigh on 40 million visitors a year – I’m bound to know some of them! 

In any case, I have, as a consequence, been repeatedly asked where visitors should go when they’re in town, so I thought I’d blog a list of recommendations to which I could then point future enquirers.  However, there’s so much on offer here, it’s going to take a few posts; in this one I’m going to concentrate on places where you can see art.

Naturally, the Nevada Humanities program space should be top of your list. We moved into our new arts district location mid-way through last year and since then, we’ve been proud to offer a series of small shows.  They change every two months or so but all of them speak to the “Nevada Experience” in some way.  At time of writing, my Vegas colleague, Bobbie Ann Howell (no mean artist herself!), is busy mounting a new show dedicated to the works of the artistic community that resides part time in the small town of Tuscarora in the north of the state. 

We love to have people come visit.  Our official opening hours are Monday-Thursday 1-5 pm and also 6-9 pm during Preview Thursday and First Friday.  That said, we’re usually in the office a great deal more than that and anytime we’re there, the doors are open.  A note of caution though - if you’re making a special trip just to see us, do ring beforehand because occasionally both Bobbie Ann and I have to be out of the office at the same time and I should hate for you to have a wasted journey.  The number is 702.800.4670.

Coming to our program space will bring to the heart of the Las Vegas arts district, and there are plenty of other galleries in the vicinity to check out, including others within the Art Square complex where we are located, and the Arts Factory across the road.  Another nearby personal favourite is the Amanda Harris Gallery.  Amanda usually displays the work of younger and upcoming artists and all the shows are interesting. She also hosts various well-attended local activities within her space, such as panel discussions and so on, so it’s well worth checking out her website to see what’s what.

Don’t discount the Strip itself when it comes to art venues.  The Bellagio has a small gallery, the scale of which I enjoy.  They have a new exhibit opening next month which is devoted to “paintings portraying female artists as confident practitioners of their craft, as well as a survey of work by women artists including Mary Cassatt, Georgia O’Keeffe and Berthe Morisot.”  A few doors down, the Cosmopolitan has the P3 Studio  which is dedicated to artists who include elements of interactivity within their work. I’ve had a lot of fun there over the months; my only caveat is that its shows tend to be under-publicized and so it can be difficult to find out exactly what is happening there.

Just across the way from Cosmopolitan, you’ll find the Shops at Crystals and therein one of my favourite Vegas tips: the Louis Vuitton store.  If you ring 702.739.8520 and make an appointment, you can get an exclusive opportunity to see a site-specific light installation at the top of the store by James Turrell, no less.  It’s called Akhob.  I visited last week and loved it.  You’re just there on your own and the experience is so much more intimate than seeing his works in, say, MOMA, LACMA and the like. Apparently, there is another Turrell piece in the monorail station at the back of Crystals, but I’ve not yet had a chance to check that out.

There are loads of other great venues but space and time prevents me mentioning them all. However, if the arts scene of Vegas is something you’re drawn to, then I recommend an excellent article by Dawn-Michelle Baude which offers a great overview.

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