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Culture War Rubble or Creative Renaissance?

Updated: Mar 10

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."