When you hear about Las Vegas it is generally in the context of gambling, casinos and glitzy nightlife. However, although it is dubbed ‘Sin City’, Vegas has a host of arts venues, events and activities that, together with some of its iconic architecture, make it a special place for culture vultures and it truly is one of the most dynamic cities in the USA. Here are a few of the wonderful things you can see and do, as an alternative to the gaming houses and the Hollywood-style shows.
Renowned as the cultural heart of the city, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas has three performing arts venues that are visited by world-class opera, ballet and theatre companies, symphony orchestras and chamber ensembles. There is a Jazz Festival every spring, and seasons of dance by the Nevada Ballet Theatre are followed by music from the Las Vegas Philharmonic and theatre performances by Nevada Conservatory Theatre. Many ensembles are based here so the concert season is busy and programs include international artists and classical musicians as well as popular arts from a broad range of genres. Here you can see Broadway stars as well as renowned names in jazz and modern dance.
The Black Box Theatre is where many of the student performances take place and home to more experimental work as well as small recitals and lectures.
The university runs courses in fine arts and liberal arts and holds exhibitions on campus in a number of venues, notably the Donna Beam Fine Art Gallery, Grant Hall Gallery and Marjorie Barrick Museum. There are collections of artifacts from around the globe and at the entrance to the museum the Donald H. Baepler Xeric Garden showcases more than 9,000 square feet of wonderful desert scenery inhabited by indigenous mammals, birds and reptiles. You can wander paved pathways, pause as you cross bridges and enjoy a rest on the benches in the arbors. Designed by landscape architect Jack W. Zunino, this is truly an oasis in the center of the campus.
There are many arts centers housed in a selection of buildings around the city. The Arts Factory has several galleries and is downtown. On the first Friday every month there is an amazing street party here. Huge numbers of musicians, street vendors and artists attend and visitors are able to enjoy the outdoor cultural extravaganza absolutely free of charge. Emergency Arts is well-known for fabulous coffee and proximity to a plethora of smaller galleries and in the City Center you can see sculpture by Claus Oldenberg and Henry Moore plus many other examples of wonderful public art works.
On the corner of Bonanza and Grand Central Parkway an iconic health center designed by architect Frank Gehry catches your eye and there are many fabulous hotels with innovative exteriors and sumptuous interiors. Perhaps the best known of these are the resorts developed by so-called ‘King Vegas’, Wynn Resorts Ltd CEO Stephen Wynn. The amazingly successful, award-winning Wynn resorts have helped to regenerate the city and together Wynn Las Vegas and sister hotel Encore Las Vegas are the proud owners of more five-star awards from Forbes than any other casino and resort in the world, bar none. Previous Wynn hotels include the Bellagio, Treasure Island and The Mirage – all are worth a visit.
What makes these buildings fine examples of the art and culture of Las Vegas are the clever design treats that have been incorporated for visitors – walk into Wynn Las Vegas for instance and view the huge curtain waterfall. As an avid collector of art and artifacts, Wynn has always been driven by his dream to recreate the best in all that he has achieved, and, in fact, this could be the selfsame motto of all key providers of art n Las Vegas today.