Thursday, Aug. 7, 2008 | 2 a.m.
Las Vegas, long the entertainment capital of the world, thinks it’s reached the point where it can promote cultural tourism, creating an arts council to knit together a fragmented arts community — from Cirque du Soleil to the Nevada Watercolor Society.
The new Metro Arts Council already has captured a $30,000 grant from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to develop a Web site offering one-stop cultural shopping for locals and tourists alike.
The electronic master calendar is only one element of Metro Arts’ plan.
The council wants to unite the Las Vegas arts community through such activities as networking, offering support to smaller organizations, training in program development, marketing and grant writing, assessing the needs of community arts groups, and other research.
“We probably have more creative workers in this community than any other community in the world,” says Joan Lolmaugh, president of the Metro Arts Council. “Not only performers, but sound and lighting technicians, marketing people and design people, There hasn’t been much substantial thought and discussion about how important that is to this community. What they’ve given to the community hasn’t even been measured — not just in dollars but in enrichment.”
Eventually the council hopes to generate greater giving to the Las Vegas arts community, including through a regranting program that distributes funds.
No other organization is heading such an ambitious communitywide arts effort.
A unified group such as Metro Arts will help connect the arts to the general public and to elected officials, says Susan Boskoff, executive director of the Nevada Arts Council, a state agency that channels state and national funding to promote the arts. Metro Arts will help the Nevada Arts Council gather and disseminate information when it seeks funding from the Legislature.
“Most cities this size have an arts council,” says Nancy Deaner, manager of the Office of Cultural Affairs for Las Vegas. “They’re necessary to unify the arts. There are a lot of little voices, but there needs to be one very strong voice.” In many cities, she says, the arts council lobbies for funding for public art.
The need for an arts council was identified in several studies, including one conducted by the Nevada Arts Council and the Western States Arts Federation in 2004.
The Allied Arts Council of Southern Nevada formed in 1961 but unraveled in the ’90s because of political squabbles with other arts groups and other problems. Allied Arts went dormant but kept its nonprofit status, which Metro Arts is using now.
Metro Arts hired Civic Resource Group, the company that created the cultural Web site for Los Angeles, to develop a similar portal for the Las Vegas Valley. Experiencela.com is a slick Web site that serves as a clearinghouse for various events — from modern dance, theater and art exhibits to rock and jazz concerts, and even cooking classes.
The portal will be free and open to any local arts group, says Shaun Sewell, chairman of Experience Las Vegas, the working title for the portal:
“Las Vegas has plenty of culture, but no one has the best way to reach the 2 million people in the valley. This Web site will do that. It is designed to expose all of Las Vegas to every arts and culture event out there.”
Lolmaugh says all groups will have equal representation on the Las Vegas site. The site would also give exposure to creative workers participating in off-Strip events, such as the late-night cabarets and comedy performances at Onyx Theatre. Groups that already have their own Web sites, such as the Beckett Festival, the Las Vegas Chamber Music Society and the Liberace Museum, would get more exposure than they would on their own.
The prototype for the Las Vegas Web portal is scheduled to be unveiled Oct. 6 at an event at the downtown Fifth Street School, which also will introduce Metro Arts to the community.
The Web site is expected to cost $530,000 over the next three years, and Metro is still trying to figure out how to pay for it. Advertising isn’t part of the plan. Some groups are nonprofits and others have large advertising budgets that could overwhelm the site.
Experiencela.com, for example, is funded by a group of public agencies including the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the city’s redevelopment agency.
Metro Arts members say it took little effort to draw the interest of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
“The LVCVA is excited to work with the Metro Arts Council in order to share the evolution of cultural tourism in Las Vegas with our visitors,” says Terry Jicinsky, senior vice president of marketing for the Convention and Visitors Authority. “We have a history of supporting cultural tourism projects such as downtown’s First Friday events, the Neon Museum project and now the Metro Arts Council, all in an effort to help raise awareness of Las Vegas’ cultural attractions.”
Last year Americans for the Arts’ economic impact report on nonprofit groups in 156 communities concluded that the nonprofit arts industry generates more than $166.2 billion annually, produces 5.7 million jobs and promotes cultural tourism. According to the report, $204 million is generated by the Las Vegas nonprofit arts industry annually. The study didn’t include commercial arts groups.
Metro Arts is the second collaborative arts initiative to be unveiled this year. In May, IMPACT, an arts and culture event whose organizers plan to bring together the community and various arts groups annually, was launched at the Liberace Museum and Foundation for the Performing and Creative Arts.
“We’re all for it,” Philip Koslow, director of development for the Las Vegas Philharmonic, says of Metro Arts. “We’re trying to cast a wider net. The closer we get to the Smith Center (for the Performing Arts), the more we can reach beyond the community. Our being part of it is a good thing.”