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Culture War Rubble or Creative Renaissance?

Updated: Mar 10, 2023

The City of Las Vegas can create opportunity through the Arts.

The Las Vegas Arts and Culture Summit convened on 16 Feb 2023.

The City of Las Vegas Cultural Affairs team held a remarkable event last month at a critical point for Southern Nevada's arts and culture sector, a community of nonprofit, commercial, and public stakeholders responsible for (at minimum) 4.7% of Nevada's GDP. The Las Vegas Arts and Culture Summit stood out as the first of it's kind calling together over 130 leaders from across the region to discuss their impact both economically and socially, and to collaborate on strategies for advancement. Randy Cohen of Americans for the Arts and Ruth Hartt from Culture For Hire, were among the guest speakers along with local Aaron Berger, Executive Director of the Neon Museum. Two creative development firms also presented as consultants for the city's cultural strategy; Jamie Giellis from Centro, and Barbara Goldstein from Art Builds Community.

Creative workers everywhere make education and enterprise possible in our community, along with a sense of wellbeing and belonging in our own skin. It was significant to see elected leaders like Mayor Carolyn Goodman speak on the record about the vital need for creative professionals in our community amid relentless attacks on free expression in the arts and humanities out in the field. The day made it clear there are scores of organizations and individuals shunning culture wars in favor of opportunities that can lead Southern Nevada into a creative renaissance.

City of Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman welcomed the summit attendees.

Councilman Cedric Crear acknowledged the work ahead for stakeholders in the local arts arena is substantial but worth it in his address to the group:

Councilman Cedric Crear addressed Arts and Culture leaders.

"We have done a number of different things and we have a long way to go. And you might have heard that we are working to create and to bring in a African American Art and Cultural Center as well right into the Historic West Side and we have hired some great consultants that have a lot of experience in doing exactly what we're trying to do. And we are on a phase two of a multi phase opportunity to create and bring art into our culture.

I think one of the city's goals is to be a resource for Las Vegas artists. That's important."

Arts help drive Nevada's economy. Image by Randy Cohen, @ArtsInfoGuy.

The Arts are not a cause, they are an industry, a tool for society, and the expression of our humanity; Nevada decision makers have a lot to learn about how to unlock their power for economic development. Randy Cohen offered DATA and tools to help policymakers and advocates alike advance the ball for potential partners including these insights:

"The US Department of Commerce, is now involved in studying the economic impact of the arts, the Bureau of Economic Analysis estimate the arts and culture industry in the United States nationally is an $876.7. billion industry, billion with a B, that is 4.2% of the nation's economy.

That's a bigger share of the economy than transportation, agriculture, tourism....There is an understanding now in economic development and commerce in the business world, that to compete and prosper in a global economy you have to innovate, you have to create, and the arts drive that creativity, innovation."

$8.1 billion of that is right here in Nevada, that is 4.7% of the state's economy which is ahead of the nation al average of 4.2%, and that supports about 37,000-plus jobs in the state. Further Department of Commerce research shows when there's a growth of local artists jobs, that will ultimately increase overall employment for a state. 72% of the American public says the arts unified communities, regardless of age, race, or ethnicity, 73% say "the arts helped me understand other cultures." According to Cohen, "Those findings spread across all socio economic strata. This is something that everybody experiences. So there are a lot of different kinds of benefit."

Americans for the Arts offers a simple online tool to find evidence of the social impact of the Arts; the Arts and Impact Social Explorer. Cohen explained,"I call it the pinwheel, but you can go online and all and we've got almost 30 different click one of the pieces of the pie and it will give you some examples, the research, and some case studies."

After surviving the pandemic remotely together, the meeting was the first "face-to-face" for many who had toiled together in zooms and on shared google docs over the years. It was energizing to connect with colleagues and enjoy performances offered by area groups including Vegas Theatre Company and Majestic Repertory Theatre, along with High Stakes Barber Shop Quartet among others.

The energy was welcome as the arts and culture ecosystem is as strained as it is determined in a tough economic climate. Promotion of local arts now faces the toughest challenge yet with groups like the LVCVA going "All-in" on sports media without a strategy to support increasingly marginalized arts organizations.

Stewards of the Vegas brand still struggle to see the talent and opportunity at their own door because of outdated beliefs about the depth and breadth of the local arts and culture landscape; mistakenly thinking local artists need imported names rather than the respect they deserve from neighbors to make our city an unmatched leader in the creative industry.

It doesn't have to be this way and it can change right now with increased personal engagement between local artists and the leaders who impact them.

Eat More Art Vegas invites the community to join us at our March Vegas Arts Table on March 13 at 6:30 p.m. on Zoom. We will be holding a hybrid in-person/zoom meeting in April.

Agenda items include:

  • Las Vegas Arts Summit recap

  • AEP6 Audience and Organizational Survey "final phase" Q/A

  • Updates from the Arts and Business scene: Tech Alley, UNLV SBDC, UNLV CBRE, LVGEA

  • Whatever shameless plugs you want to share!

Invite local NV legislators, commissioners, and city council members, and for the Zoom link click here.

Special thanks are owed to the committee under the leadership of Maggie Plaster and the City of Las Vegas Cultural Affairs team for listening to the needs of arts leaders and delivering a substantive exchange. We at Eat More Art Vegas say, MORE PLEASE!


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