weather icon Clear

Las Vegas art museum’s director reflects on 1st year of work

Sunday will mark one year that Heather Harmon has been working to give the people of Las Vegas their first standalone dedicated art museum.

Early last year, the director of the Nevada Museum of Art, Las Vegas moved back home for the first time since 2001.

In her first year, she’s been keeping busy by connecting with the local arts community, assessing the ways in which her hometown has evolved and scouting land parcels and architects ahead of the museum’s 2025 opening.

“We know that we need to have programs that appeal to a really diverse population and diverse demographic and reflect the people who live here,” Harmon says. “We know we are going to build a museum for the people of Las Vegas.”

Like other Las Vegas locals, Harmon grew up without a dedicated fine art museum. She credits an art history class at UNLV led by Dave Hickey with catalyzing her love for art.

“Dave Hickey would say that a great work of art transcends our cultural boundaries. Five people from totally different backgrounds can look at one work of art and have that ‘aha’ moment and be moved,” she says.

After graduating from UNLV with a degree in art history, Harmon earned her master’s degree from a competitive Art Theory and Criticism program at Art Center College of Design in California.

From there, she traveled halfway around the world, with stops in New York, the island of Ibiza and Vienna.

Currently, she’s keeping busy with opening a visitors center for the museum in the Arts District, deciding on a location for the museum and caring for two rescue pups.

Review-Journal: How did not having an art museum as a kid influence your upbringing?

Heather Harmon: Not having an art museum ultimately made me feel like I was excluded, that I couldn’t have a relationship with art because I didn’t have one. Even though I sought out cultural experiences, literary experiences, ballet experiences, I think growing up without a museum made me feel insecure about my relationship to art and that somehow, like academically, I couldn’t understand it because everyone else had this thing and belonged to this club that I didn’t belong to and didn’t have access to.

How has Las Vegas changed since you last lived here?

I would say the most significant change I’ve seen is this really brilliant turning inward. When I was growing up, when you went to family dinner, you often went to the Strip and a lot of your activities centered around the Strip. And I love the Strip. I go to the Strip all the time, but now you have these off-Strip experiences too. So, if someone comes to visit me, I do some of my favorite things that have always been there. I go to the Neon Museum. I go to Double Negative, the Michael Heizer work that’s out of the Moapa Valley. The biggest change that I’ve seen is that the infrastructure and the offerings for the people who live here, you feel like it’s really shifted to be an incredible place to live and work.

In addition to scouting a location, what else has kept you busy as you get the museum off the ground?

One of our big things that we really wanted to do was establish a visitor center. We are going to open that in September. It’s going to be downtown on Main Street. And we’re going to have exhibitions and programming and a small cafe and a space for the architecture models so that you as a viewer and a resident are seeing things as we see them. So you’ll see architecture drawings, models, programming, education, exhibitions, all the people that work at the museum, and so you’ll be able to interact with this process.

Who or what in the art world is drawing your attention at the moment?

Underground Museum (in Los Angeles). They have this exhibition on view right now by an artist named Rodney McMillian. He’s an African American artist and he hits a lot of issues head-on. You know, he’s inquisitive, but he hits issues that may be tough to process with a level of reverence and kindness and love, like his whole practice is very loving and very tactile and very accessible.

How can Las Vegans better engage with local art?

There are a lot of exhibitions that take place with master of fine arts (MFA) grad students at UNLV. The Barrick Museum has amazing programming. MFA students under the leadership of Marcus Civin is epic. Go see visiting artists (at) the School of Architecture on Monday nights, they have an amazing lecture series. Follow the calendar of the city of Las Vegas, they do a lot of great arts programming. And the Clark County Library District has incredible programming at all of our libraries.

What do you think art in Las Vegas will look like in 2020?

I feel like it’s going to be more open and more supportive. So I feel like with support and with growing visibility, as there’s more of an infrastructure to support their work, I think artists will be able to take more risks. I think in 2020 the biggest forecast that I predict is that we’re going to have more art.

Contact Janna Karel at jkarel@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3835. Follow @jannainprogress on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
John Prine, country-folk singer, dies at 73 - VIDEO
John Prine died due to complications caused by COVID-19 at Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee on April 7. The singer-songwriter is counted as one the favorite artists by the likes of Bob Dylan and Kris Kristofferson. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caesars furloughing about 90% of US workers
The furloughs come amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has prompted all U.S. commercial casinos to temporarily shut their doors.
Bill Withers, soul legend and 'Lean on Me' singer, dead at 81 - VIDEO
Bill Withers' family said he died of heart complications on Monday in Los Angeles. Withers was a three-time Grammy winner. His other major hits include “Ain’t No Sunshine" and “Lovely Day.” (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas KatsWalk: From the Mandalay Bay to Excalibur - VIDEO
Review-Journal columnist John Katsilometes walks and talks along the Las Vegas Strip, from Mandalay Bay to Excalibur. (John Katsilometes and Kevin Cannon / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Make Ivan Grant's Quarantini - VIDEO
Ivan Grant, a flair bartender at Long Bar at The D Las Vegas, makes his Quarantini. (Ivan Grant)
Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger dies from coronavirus - VIDEO
According to Variety, 52-year-old frontman and songwriter Adam Schlesinger has died, following a short battle with the respiratory illness, coronavirus. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
KATS WALK: A walking tour on south Las Vegas Strip – VIDEO
RJ columnist John Katsiometes takes a walking tour of the south end of the Las Vegas Strip. (John Katsiometes and Kevin Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tiger King character has Las Vegas connection - VIDEO
Entertainment reporter John Katsilometes talks about the popular "Tiger King" and Jeff Lowe, a central figure in the Netflix documentary phenomenon who wanted to do business with the last Las Vegas Strip entertainer to use wild tigers in his act. (Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Coranavirus victim Howard Berman playing the harmonica in April 2014 - VIDEO
Howard Berman, 66, playing the harmonica at a jam session in April 2014. Berman, who was active in the Las Vegas music community, died on March 24, 2020, from COVID-19. (Diana Andriola)
Boarded-up businesses in the Arts District add some color - VIDEO
Businesses in the Arts District have commissioned local artists to paint murals on the boards covering their doors and windows. When the boards are removed, they will be auctioned off to raise money for those affected by the coronavirus shutdowns. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Sold-out Electric Daisy Carnival still scheduled for May - VIDEO
In a post on his social media platforms, festival founder Pasquale Rotella confirmed that EDC remains scheduled for May 15-17 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway despite coronavirus concerns that have sideline scads of other live music events. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
City of Las Vegas responds to calls to allow restaurants offering curbside pickup
Alcohol is now allowed in curbside meal pickups in Las Vegas. The city of Las Vegas has responded to calls to allow restaurants offering curbside pickup service to include alcohol in those meals. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Lady Gaga delays new album release - VIDEO
The pop star was planning to drop her sixth LP, "Chromatica," on April 10, but she's made the "tough decision" to push back the launch following the coronavirus outbreak. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ways to keep yourself from going crazy at home during coronavirus - VIDEO
Take art classes with your kids. Install a bidet. Practice yoga. Buy houseplants. Catch up your streaming queue. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas nightclub giant Hakkasan Group lays off 1,600 - VIDEO
The Las Vegas Strip’s leading nightlife company has let go of nearly its entire workforce, leaving about 1,600 staffers suddenly unemployed, due to the shutdowns during the coronavirus crisis. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Disneyland closes in response to coronavirus - VIDEO
Walt Disney Company announced the closure of its Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, on Thursday afternoon. Known as the "happiest place on earth," Disneyland has closed its doors only three other times in 65 years. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts to temporarily close buffets amid coronavirus fears - VIDEO
MGM Resorts International will temporarily close its Las Vegas buffets, effective Sunday amid growing coronavirus fears. (Al Mancini and James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Morimoto tackles Italian cooking at Eataly Las Vegas
Masaharu Morimoto showed off his skills in a slightly different context Thursday night, when he dropped by Manzo in Eataly to launch the Italian restaurant’s new Guest Chef series. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Terry Fator leaving Mirage on Las Vegas Strip - VIDEO
The 11-year Las Vegas Strip headliner is on a venue hunt, confirming Wednesday he is leaving his eponymous theater at The Mirage this summer for parts uncharted. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Garth Brooks to play first concert at Allegiant Stadium - VIDEO
Country megastar Garth Brooks is the first non-football event announced for the $2 billion, 65,000-seat Allegiant Stadium. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Post Malone reveals his face tattoos are due to being 'ugly' - VIDEO
In a new interview with 'GQ,' the 24-year-old admitted his body art is linked to insecurity issues. [The face tattoos do] maybe come from a place of insecurity, to where I don’t like how I look .., Post Malone, via 'GQ'. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
5 Las Vegas chefs to watch - VIDEO
If you want to know what’s next for dining in Las Vegas, we suggest paying close attention to these five accomplished chefs. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Slanted Door in The Forum Shops at Caesars - VIDEO
The Slanted Door, Charles Phan's James Beard Award-winning modern Vietnamese restaurant, will open a Las Vegas location on March 2. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas REview-Journal)
Buddy V opens PizzaCake at Harrah’s - VIDEO
Buddy Valastro, aka Cake Boss Buddy V, is in town this week overseeing the soft opening of his new restaurant, PizzaCake, in Harrah’s Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making mist-shrouded tuna poke at Marssa at the Westin Lake Las Vegas - VIDEO
E.J. Estrella, banquet chef at Marssa at the Westin Lake Las Vegas, makes tuna poke by mixing chunks of bigeye tuna with sliced green onions, julienned white onions and house-made poke sauce and serving it on a bed of seaweed salad garnished with lotus chips and suspended over melon-scented mist. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making baked goat cheese at Ri Ra in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Shea Wafford, sous chef and pastry chef at Ri Ra at The Shoppes at Mandalay Place in Las Vegas, makes baked goat cheese served with honey-nut pesto, pickled red onions, peppadew relish and sourdough baguette. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bruce Kalman cooking at Ada’s - VIDEO
Celebrity chef Bruce Kalman will be cooking at Ada's in Tivoli Village in Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making banana cream pie at Cut in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Nicole Earl, pastry chef at Cut at the Palazzo in Las Vegas, makes an updated banana cream pie by layering banana ice cream, custard and compote with house-made Cool Whip, vanilla wafers and 24-karat gold leaf in a milk chocolate sphere and drizzling it with warm banana-caramel sauce so it devolves into petals. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making Chile Colorado at Kitchen Table and Kitchen Table Squared in Las Vegas
Javier Chavez, chef/owner of Kitchen Table and Kitchen Table Squared in Las Vegas, makes Chile Colorado by braising pork belly with three kinds of peppers and serving it atop stewed black beans with crema and pickled jalapeño, carrots and onions, with flour tortillas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Black Tap introduces its vegan CrazyShake - VIDEO
Black Tap at The Venetian on the Las Vegas Strip has a new CrazyShake that's vegan -- The Black ’N White CakeShake. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Imagine Dragons reset Las Vegas gala

Last year’s Imagine Dragons TRF gala raised a record $3.2 million for TRF, and the band has garnered $7.7 million since its inaugural event in 2014 at Hard Rock Hotel.

Massive Meow Wolf mural at Area15 takes root

The mural, which Las Vegas artist Eric Vozzola free-handed in collaboration with Meow Wolf, will welcome visitors into the otherworldly experience that the art collective is planning to open later this year.