Museum closing shakes art scene, prompts caution

Tough times are putting a serious strain on this city’s cultural community.

Las Vegas Art Museum’s shutdown last month rattled an arts scene that might have underestimated the impact of an imploding economy.

"I was completely shocked," said Libby Lumpkin, the art museum’s former executive director who resigned in December after the museum board approved a 30 percent budget cut that nearly guaranteed reduced salaries and job losses.

"I thought there might be more dismissals of staff, but I honestly did not think the entire institution would collapse," Lumpkin said.

Other nonprofit linchpins of the arts community have not plunged into the same fiscal abyss, but cuts, caution and concern are the watchwords as they weigh artistry and economics.

The Nevada Ballet Theatre suffered enough losses to warrant personnel cutbacks and a programming postponement. On March 10, the organization announced a reduction of the dance company from 31 to 22 dancers — but no principal dancers — laid off several administrative staff members and decided to leave three positions unfilled. Further temporary layoffs are possible.

The company also rescheduled the season-ending "New Works ’09" performance, originally set for May 15-17, to next season. Season subscribers are urged to donate tickets to the postponed show back to the company to help alleviate its budgetary issues, and an anonymous donor has pledged to match as much as $50,000 in contributions received before June 30.

"We saw the signs as early as September," said Beth Barbre, executive director of Nevada Ballet Theatre, which has seen a 20 percent drop in contributions, event revenues and tuition for its academy this year, the $3 million budget down from the previous year’s $3.39 million.

"It really became significant with ‘The Nutcracker,’ where we were down 27 percent, and that makes up over half of our tickets. Our Black and White Ball, while successful, still did not meet budget. And our Balanchine program was well-attended but did not make budget. We felt it was time to act so things didn’t get worse."

There has been talk of restructuring, Barbre said, as well as "a healthy conversation about ticket prices" — the average ticket now is $36 — and a possibility of discounts. A $10 balcony seat has been added to the pricing of the "American Masters" program April 10 and 11 at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, which features guest dancers from the New York City Ballet.

"The last thing we want to do is affect the art form, but we are sensitive to the needs of our patrons," Barbre said.

She said the company still is formulating the budget for the next fiscal year and she can’t speculate on any additional cost-saving measures.

"We have four months left of the fiscal year, and every prudent option is on the table. We’re looking at what other companies in our field (are doing). We’re taking steps to ensure our fiscal health and longevity, emerging a smaller but stronger company."

The Las Vegas Philharmonic canceled its traditional July 4 program, but will maintain its slate of Masterworks, Pops and youth concerts, the latter nearly eliminated last December. The philharmonic is recovering from internal turmoil after the resignation of board President Barbara Woollen and the dismissal of Executive Director Peter Aaronson, saving the organization his $125,000 salary.

"I’m working toward stabilizing the ship, and we have a lot of new energy here now," said Jeri Crawford, presiding officer of the philharmonic, which is working with a $1.7 million budget, and saved additional money when music director David Itkin sliced 10 percent off his $93,500 salary.

"We’ve had some voluntary cutbacks. Some people couldn’t do a (salary) reduction. We didn’t want to fire anyone. We’re looking at different ways of restructuring."

But attendance is robust, Crawford said, noting the sold-out Valentine’s Day concert with guest cellist Zuill Bailey, and a $100,000 challenge to philharmonic audiences from an anonymous donor.

Nevada Opera Theatre is mindful of the money crunch and felt the economic impact, but it was cushioned somewhat by pre-recession budgeting.

"The effect on us has not been as traumatic as on the philharmonic and the ballet because of their much larger agenda and audience participation," said founder/director Eileen Hayes, whose outfit actually has seen a budget increase from about $225,000 to $300,000.

"Yes, contributions have been down, especially between the last two years and this year, but we’ve been in the mode of reducing our once big deficit dramatically over the last few years. And our audience attendance is really starting to rebound."

Beyond those factors, the company has not tied itself to a set season of performances and the attendant costs. When it does perform, it is at smaller, less expensive venues. Though for the past two years the company has not staged its usual production at UNLV’s large Artemus Ham Hall, Hayes expects that to resume. Tickets have been kept less than $50, and the group has kept close tabs on production budgets.

"We’re just being very careful what we do," Hayes said. "We have cut back on guest performers over the last several years. We used to bring in entire sets and costumes, but now we’ve gotten frugal and rent pieces locally and from Southern California. We used to rent entire sets from New York, but those days are gone."

At Opera Las Vegas, finances are actually on the upswing. Citing "prudent and creative fundraising," Hal West, vice president of marketing and public relations, said the company is aiming for a 50 percent budgetary hike, from $50,000 to $75,000. Containing expenditures by staging only two productions this year, they briefly considered doubling the top $40 ticket price but nixed that notion.

"In these times," West said, "people need the arts more than ever."

The 32-year-old Las Vegas Little Theatre, the city’s oldest community theater, is functioning fairly well on a nearly $200,000 budget while maintaining six productions in the main stage theater and three in the smaller Black Box.

"We’re not rolling in money, but we’re no worse than in previous years, paying our rent and electric bills," said board President Walter Niejadlik, noting that keeping expectations reasonable and avoiding grandiose goals helps steady the balance sheet. "We’re not doing huge productions costing $20,000 a pop that never have a shot at making money back. It’s the undoing of a lot of arts organizations in this town. Everyone’s going to be the next greatest thing, doing art for art’s sake, but with no business sense."

Theater audiences traditionally skew older than for other art forms — on average, 65 to 70 years old, Niejadlik said — with more discretionary income to spend on the arts. But that demographic reality has a sad side: the steady attrition of season subscribers. Las Vegas Little Theatre loses about 70 subscribers a year.

"Without being terribly morbid, they’re dying," Niejadlik said. "We get a list of subscribers who have passed away. Our big focus is on getting younger folks into the theater."

Outside assistance remains for arts organizations via grants from the Nevada Arts Council, though it trimmed 8.5 percent off its budget for the current fiscal year.

President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan doles out $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts to fund arts projects, but Nevada Arts Council Executive Director Susan Boskoff cautions that "when you look at splitting that between 62 arts organizations (nationwide), it’s not as big as that number suggests."

Boskoff points out that arts outfits that depend on ticket sales generally struggle more during a recession than those more reliant on donors and grants. But she adds that in surveys, "parents support arts and sports the most for their children’s growth, even in a recession. Also, with people traveling less and doing what they’re calling ‘stay-cations,’ I think attendance will still be fairly strong."

Hayes is cautious, however.

"The arts in general are suffering, we’re in survival mode. People are taking care of food, housing and other things more important to them. The arts won’t disappear, but they might take a back seat."

As for the abrupt shuttering of the Las Vegas Art Museum, Lumpkin refers to it as a "devastating blow to the visual arts in Las Vegas." (The artwork of the final "L.A. Now" exhibit is being returned to collectors, and pieces in the permanent collection are being offered back to donors, who could donate them elsewhere.)

"The economy is in such a shambles that it will be 10 years before there’s any serious building of the required public funding until deficits are paid down," Lumpkin said, adding that it would require a bigger, better facility than its former digs at the West Sahara Library.

"It takes seven years minimum to get a facility built, so it might be at least 17 years to find somebody to try to build a serious museum again in Las Vegas."

But the museum board has retained the museum name and labels the closure a "hibernation," with hopes of reopening when the economic slide reverses.

Board President Patrick Duffy doesn’t foresee a domino effect from the art museum’s disappearance, temporary or otherwise, on small, independent galleries in town.

"Our gallerists are extremely smart business people," Duffy said. "We need to be immersed in some optimism, sensible optimism, because we’ve been satiated with pessimism."

Said Barbre, "We know it’s a difficult time for everyone, but it’s a time when people need beauty more than ever."

Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld or 702-383-0256.

Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
1 dead, 1 wounded in North Las Vegas standoff
A woman was hospitalized with serious injuries on Thursday morning after being shot inside a North Las Vegas house. Police responded about 11 p.m. to a shooting at a home on the 5600 block of Tropic Breeze Street, near Ann Road and Bruce Street. The wounded woman, police believe, was shot by a man, who later barricaded himself inside the house. SWAT was called to assist, and when officers entered the house, they discovered the man dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Las Vegas Teen Makes Clothing Resale His Side Hustle
Las Vegas resident Reanu Elises, 18, started buying and selling streetwear online when he was a high school junior. Like many other young adults, the world of online resale applications like Depop and Mercari have made selling clothing online for a profit easy. Now, Elises spends his free time at thrift shops looking for rare and vintage clothing he can list on his on his shop. Now in his freshman year at UNLV as a business marketing major, Elises hopes to open a shop of his own one day and start his own clothing brand. He estimates that he's made about $1000 from just thrifted finds in the past year, which he'll use to buy more thrift clothing and help pay for expenses in college. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Fruition Vineyards Encourages Young Entrepreneurs to "Buy, Flip, Dream"
Once a month, young adults gather at Fruition Vineyards on South Maryland Parkway near UNLV to dig through a stack of rare, vintage and designer clothing that's marked down well below it's resale value. Shop founder Valerie Julian began the vent, dubbed "Fruition Vineyards" in August after running her streetwear shop since 2005. The event gives young entrepreneurs the opportunity to "buy, flip, dream" according to Jean. Meaning that they're encouraged to buy the clothing for sale and find a way to resell it for a profit, then reinvest that into whatever dream they pursue: college, a hobby or their own resale business. Shoppers lined up starting an hour before noon on the last Saturday in April for the opportunity and spoke about what they hoped to do with their finds and profits. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Local man goes under cover searching for answers to homelessness
Licensed mental health therapist Sheldon Jacobs spent 48 hours under cover posing as a homeless man in an attempt to gain perspective on the complex issue.
Social Work UNLV Lecturer's Calling
Ivet Aldaba-Valera was the first person in her family to graduate from both high school and college. The 33-year-old UNLV lecturer is now pursuing her Ph. D in public policy at the school and has used her degree in social work to engage with the young Latino and Latina community of Las Vegas. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
The world's longest racetrack could be coming to Pahrump
Spring Mountain Motor Resort and Country Club in Pahrump might be the first racetrack in the world longer than 16 miles long once the expansion is complete. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Gold Point townsperson talks about why he choose to live in a ghost town
Gold Point townsperson Walt Kremin talks about the ghost town in Nevada he calls home. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Search for missing 3-year-old boy at Sunset Park
Las Vegas police and Red Rock Search and Rescue team search for a missing child at Sunset Park in southeast Las Vegas on Sunday, Sept.2, 2018. (Chitose Suzuki/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai speaks at Las Vegas tech conference
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban on her way home from school in Pakistan after advocating for girls' education, spoke at VMworld 2018 at Mandalay Bay. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren addresses Oct. 1 lawsuits
MGM Resorts International Chairman and CEO Jim Murren addresses criticism his company has received for filing a lawsuit against the survivors of the Oct. 1 shooting. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Father recalls the night his 14-year-old son died jumping into moving traffic
From the Clark County Detention Center, Ezequiel Anorve Serrano talks about the night his 14-year-old son, Silas Anorve, died jumping into moving traffic on U.S. 95. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Palace Station unveils new sports book
Palace Station talks about the new sports book Thursday, August 23, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
One of world's longest racetracks planned in Pahrump by 2020
The racetrack will be 16 miles long by the year 2020 according to Spring Mountain Motor Resort and Country Club owner John Morris. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Henderson police bodycam footage of officer-involved shooting
Henderson police released body-worn camera footage of an officer-involved shooting in a grocery store parking lot at 2667 Windmill Parkway on Aug. 12, 2018. (Henderson Police Department)
Robotics takes off at Las Vegas Academy
Las Vegas Academy’s robotics team made it all the way to the world competition last year, the first year the team competed. Zackary Perry describes how they programmed their robot to compete. The team is an example of what Tesla wants to have in every school in the state. (Meghin Delaney/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bicyclist suffers major head trauma in hit-and-run
A bicyclist was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries after a Thursday morning hit-and-run crash near the school formerly known as Agassi Prep. Police said the bicyclist was hit by a white SUV, which fled the scene. The injured man suffered multiple injuries including major head trauma. As of 9 a.m., Lake Mead remained closed between Martin Luther King and Revere Street while police investigate.
Las Vegas artist Dave Dave dies at 42
Dave Dave talks about his art and his life in 2016. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dave Dave, whose dad set him on fire in 1983, dies
Dave Dave, a respected Las Vegas artist who was badly scarred as a boy when his father tried to burn him to death in Southern California, died at Sunrise Hospital on July 15. He was 42. When he was 6, Dave's father tried to kill him by setting him on fire. He was given a sleeping pill and his bed at a Buena Park, California, motel was doused with kerosene. “I remembered being in a lot of pain,” Dave told the Review-Journal in 2016. “When stuff happens to you at that young of an age, you tend to block it out, but I remember the pain was excruciating.” Dave, who was born David Rothenberg, became close friends with Michael Jackson, who met him after the attack, which burned more than 90 percent of his body. “I wanted to meet him, and he wanted to meet me, and that just turned into a lifelong relationship that never ended,” Dave said. “It was amazing being friends with Michael Jackson. He was an amazing person.” Dave attended ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California, and collaborated with various artists around Las Vegas, eventually selling his art to private collectors. Despite his challenges, he continued to live, thrive and create. Dave Dave
Homicide detectives investigate woman's death
Las Vegas police were called to Tahiti Village Resort early Wednesday after calls that someone had been shot. Police found a woman’s body between a parking garage and boiler room on the resort's property. A guest first reported hearing gunfire. There are no witnesses, but police will examine surveillance videos and look for clues. The woman was not identified, but a purse was found near the body. She did not appear to be a guest at the resort.
LVMPD Discusses Ross Dress for Less Shooting
LVMPD Assistant Sheriff Charles Hank discussed the 15th officer-involved shooting of the year at a press conference at Metro headquarters on Tuesday, Aug. 14. The active-shooter incident took place at the Ross Dress for Less store at the 4000 block Blue Diamond Road in the south Las Vegas Valley. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Metro Asst. Sheriff Brett Zimmerman on Aug. 8 officer-involved shooting
Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman met with media Monday to discuss the details of the 14th officer-involved shooting of the year. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County School Board president Deanna Wright on travel expenses
Clark County School Board President Deanna Wright says she followed proper expense protocol in trip to Florida last year.
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program where community and business leaders joined to welcome students back with an inspirational welcome. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Shooting leaves 1 dead in southeast valley
A man was found fatally shot in the doorway of a squatter apartment after an argument ended in gunfire on Sunday night. Officers responded about 10:30 p.m. to the Silver Pines apartments and discovered the man in a breezeway in one of the buildings. The wounded man died at the scene, despite the efforts of another person, who tried to administer medical aid. Witnesses saw a man and a woman flee the scene, but were unable to give police a clear description.
North Las Vegas unveils new school crosswalk
North Las Vegas councilman Isaac Barron talks about the new school crosswalk in front of CP Squires Elementary School Monday, August 6, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
LVMPD Briefing on OIS #13
Assistant Sheriff Tim Kelly held a press conference to discuss details of the 13th officer-involved-shoot for the department in 2018. Video shows the moments before the suspect was shot. The shooting, which has been edited out, occurred as the suspect lunged at an officer outside the apartment. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sedan and semitrailer collide in south Las Vegas
An early Wednesday morning crash has left one person in critical condition. A sedan and semitrailer collided around 4 a.m. at the corner of Spencer Street and Serene Avenue. Police do not believe impairment is a factor in the crash. Spencer has been blocked off north of Serene while police continue their investigation.
Cybersecurity Professionals Flock to Las Vegas for Black Hat
Black Hat USA, the largest annual cybersecurity conference, is expecting a record 17,000 attendees during its six-day run at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center this week. One thing attendees have in mind is making sure they don't get hacked while they're there. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police chase ends with suspects captured in east Las Vegas
An early Tuesday morning chase ended with a car crash in an east Las Vegas neighborhood. Police were pursuing the vehicle, which they say was involved in robberies in Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, when the driver crashed at Owens and Statz Street. A man was taken into custody. A woman was ejected from a vehicle and taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The intersection at Mojave Road and Owens Avenue was shut down while police officers searched for the suspect and investigated. The intersection will remain closed for most of the morning.
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like