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Las Vegas art museum exits Symphony Park site, wants bigger lot

Organizers behind Las Vegas’ first stand-alone art museum are seeking a bigger home for the project, saying a proposed location in Symphony Park is too small for their ambitious plans.

The Nevada Museum of Art, Las Vegas, may ultimately find an alternative site through ongoing talks with the city but organizers are also interested in the nearby Clark County government center campus.

Commissioner Tick Segerblom is championing the project’s move to the latter.

“Frankly, it’ll be a fantastic location,” Segerblom said Wednesday. “If it works, it’ll be a win-win for everybody.”

The museum, part of a statewide expansion of the Reno-based Nevada Museum of Art, was expected to be built on 1.2 acres of land owned and contributed by the city just south of The Smith Center for the Performing Arts. Organizers later realized, however, that the museum would require more room to grow in order to fulfill a slate of programming that includes education, exhibitions and space for permanent installations.

“When you boil it down, we weren’t going to be a world-class museum, to adequately serve a population of two million people, on a 1.2-acre site,” said Heather Harmon, the Las Vegas museum’s deputy director.

Harmon pointed to the Reno counterpart’s recently planned expansion by 50,000 square feet, and to the many visitors to the Seven Magic Mountains art installation in the desert south of Las Vegas, as proof people are interested in art. She said organizers inquired about alternative sites with the county in late summer or early fall.

But despite the pivot in plans, Harmon insisted the museum maintains a positive relationship with the city, underscoring the museum’s purpose to elevate art and culture in the state will serve constituents across the community regardless of its downtown location.

Bill Arent, the city’s economic and urban development director, confirmed the prior agreement between the city and the museum expired and said they are in discussions to identify alternative sites.

During the commission meeting Tuesday, Segerblom will formally raise the possibility of constructing the museum on the government center campus in an area near the Regional Transportation Commission that is currently an expansive parking lot. Museum representatives will also make a presentation to the board, providing the history and context behind the project, according to Harmon.

Since talks between organizers and the county are new, she added, many of the details need to be worked out. Yet the meaning of a stand-alone art museum in Las Vegas remains clear, with Harmon calling it “the missing piece of the puzzle.”

“We’ve been trying to build a museum here forever,” Segerblom said. “And this is the closest we’ve come, so it’s pretty exciting.”

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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