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COMMENTARY: State should help pay for new art museum in Las Vegas

The Las Vegas metropolitan area ranks as the 29th largest in the country, yet we are the largest city in the United States without an accredited art museum. During the past several years we have added significant amenities that residents in any large city would come to expect — except a fine arts museum.

Long recognized as the entertainment capital of the world, Las Vegas is now emerging as a unique center of arts and culture.

The downtown arts scene has flourished and support for local artists has increased. The DISCOVERY Children’s Museum has been at capacity serving families in Las Vegas with engaging, interactive exhibits and programs. Tourists from around the globe are streaming into the Natural History Museum, Neon Museum and Mob Museum. On the Strip, it’s hard not to notice the significant artworks that pepper the MGM Resorts properties, not to mention City Center, and the Wynn Resorts.

And then there’s the recent crown jewel of contemporary artistic achievement: Seven Magic Mountains by the renowned Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone, co-produced by the Nevada Museum of Art, that continues to attract 1,000 visitors per day.

The Smith Center for Performing Arts just celebrated its five-year anniversary and has put Las Vegas on the world cultural stage. Clearly, it has met all expectations, welcoming residents and tourists alike. The Smith Center has become a beacon of culture in our city of glitz and dreams — yet, it stands nearly alone in Symphony Park.

A nonprofit organization formed by local community leaders called the Art Museum at Symphony Park has been working with the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno to establish a world-class art museum in Las Vegas. This effort has been supported by the city of Las Vegas, which has agreed to fund, performance-based, $2 million and provide land in Symphony Park.

Recognizing the lofty architectural design of a key Symphony Park neighbor, the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, the art museum plans to engage an architect of international renown on par with Frank Gehry to design the new museum.

Sen. Segerblom has introduced Senate Bill 187 that seeks $10 million from the state’s general fund to help establish a fine arts museum in Symphony Park and to expand the Nevada Museum of Art facility in Reno. The appropriation is a matching grant, and would require a dollar-for-dollar match from private donors. Of course, this is a relatively small portion of the overall budget that will be needed to fund the project.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has done so much to bring the state of Nevada together. We know he admires the Nevada Museum of Art. We believe this could be a fitting legacy — to help seed an art museum in Las Vegas.

Establishing the arts and cultural base of our community enhances our quality of life, creates equity and unites diverse peoples. Beyond these, museums are powerful economic drivers, creating jobs, attracting and generating investments, and stimulating a local economy through tourism and commerce. When businesses are considering re-locating to a community, access to quality arts and cultural assets is a critical factor. Arts education is the highest priority of this endeavor. Imagination and creativity are necessary for true economic and civic progress.

We urge you to call or write to your state lawmakers and ask them to vote in favor of SB187. And we urge you to get involved.

Tick Segerblom, a Democrat, represents District 3 in the Nevada State Senate. Carolyn Goodman is mayor of Las Vegas.

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