Las Vegas arts groups reach out to expand audiences

Reach out and touch someone.

That may sound like a long-ago TV commercial for long-distance telephone service (for those of us who remember such things), but it’s the guiding principle for local arts groups hoping to not only serve but expand their audiences.

Presenting performances for students has been a long-standing tradition for many local arts organizations, including the Las Vegas Philharmonic.

But the orchestra plans to expand on them with a custom Music Van that will travel to audiences rather than asking patrons to come to them.

Philharmonic officials hope to raise at least $75,000 to launch the van program in August, creating separate monthly programs for families, kindergarten through second-grade students and seniors and assisted-living residents, according to Kevin Eberle, director of orchestra operations and education.

In addition, the Music Van would present quarterly community events at Town Square, Downtown Summerlin and other public gathering spots.

“Being so isolated at The Smith Center and downtown, I know there’s people we’re not hitting,” Eberle says of the van plan. “We want people to experience music where they are.”

Meanwhile, A Public Fit’s current production of Tennessee Williams’ poignant memory play “The Glass Menagerie” has inspired not only high school visits — where troupe members “do memory exercises and tie it into the play” — but a partnership with the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, artistic director Ann-Marie Pereth reports. (The play continues through March 11 at The Usual Space, 100 S. Maryland Parkway.)

In addition to post-show discussions about memory — and memory loss — APF teaching artists are “doing improv work with caregivers,” she says. (APFs’s production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Wit,” about a literature professor battling ovarian cancer, prompted a partnership with the Women’s Cancer Center of Nevada. And, later this month, the Lou Ruvo Center is sponsoring Cockroach Theatre’s “Father,” which focuses on a character experiencing dementia.)

Such partnerships provide “an opportunity to reach out to another demographic,” Pereth explains. Beyond that, “it’s about understanding different groups, understanding different people’s perspectives.”

The goal: “To step outside of your box,” she says. “That’s what it’s all about, creating community.”

Which can be a challenge, considering “the fabric of Las Vegas is very diverse and made up of a lot of different swaths,” Eberle says. Which won’t stop the Philharmonic and other local arts groups from trying to “break down arbitrary barriers.”

Contact Carol Cling at or 702-383-0272. Follow @CarolSCling on Twitter.

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