Indicative of a major shift for Nevada, arts and culture have become more and more of a priority in recent years. One recent example of this shift, the national Americans for the Arts organization awarded NV Energy and its foundation one of 10 annual awards last month for their support of the arts in the Silver State. It was the first time a Nevada company won the recognition, which represents a significant intersection of business and arts/culture.
“For communities to thrive, they have to be worthwhile to live in. People love to live in communities that have access to arts/cultural activities,” said Susan Boskoff, executive director, Nevada Arts Council (NAC), a division of the Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs. NAC facilitates and develops public arts policies and a strong cultural infrastructure, ensures state and national funds support arts/cultural activity and encourages participation in the arts throughout the state.
Ten years ago, arts/culture in Nevada was “on an incredible trajectory of growth and exploration,” Boskoff said. Government funding was ample, institutions were expanding and commitment to public art was high in most communities. However, the long-lasting recession forced many existing arts organizations to curb spending—some even closing—and businesses to cut back on giving. The sector was hurt worst in rural Nevada, where volunteers do the lion’s share of arts/culture work. Statewide, the downturn led to collaborations and partnerships to achieve goals with fewer resources.
NAC lost more than 52 percent of its funding, slashing its grant monies. It had to cease its challenge grants. With other grants, instead of awarding fewer of them, it gave more, but for smaller amounts.
Another example of tough times, the state Commission for Cultural Centers and Historic Preservation program halted its efforts or drastically decreased its grants between 2012 and 2014 due to lack of revenue from bonds. The program offers financial assistance for upgrading historic buildings that serve as community arts/culture spaces. Between 1993 and 2011, the agency had given about $39.8 million to 88 different Nevada facilities and sites.
“The maintenance of Nevada’s cultural facilities was really stalled during the recession,” Boskoff added.
She explained that, since the recession, the Silver State’s arts and culture industry has been and continues recovering, but noted much of her information is anecdotal. NAC’s current budget of $2.5 million remains down from that of 2008 by about $800,000. While new venues, groups and events have emerged throughout Nevada, the sector as a whole isn’t back to its pre-recession levels. For instance, the “Give $3 to Keep Artown Free” campaign, launched in 2010 is ongoing. The campaign encourages event attendees to donate to sustain the month-long Reno festival.
In addition, Boskoff said that, “many arts and cultural organizations are still grappling with increased requests from their communities to provide more and more services.”
A Southern Snapshot
Ten years ago, arts and culture in the Las Vegas Valley primarily consisted of Strip offerings and University of Nevada, Las Vegas programs, explained Myron Martin, president and CEO, The Smith Center. Today, the region boasts many providers of arts and culture including the Southern Nevada Museum of Fine Art, the Nevada Ballet Theatre, Las Vegas Philharmonic, Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Co., Broadway in the Hood, 18b Las Vegas Arts District and the Life is Beautiful festival, to name a handful.
“As the city grew, people aspired for Las Vegas to be a big city when it came to arts and culture,” Martin added.
The internationally recognized Smith Center in downtown Las Vegas is a newer addition to the scene and has enhanced the region’s profile locally and abroad. This has, in turn, resulted in other sector players boosting the quality of their programs, said Beth Barbre, executive director and CEO, Nevada Ballet Theatre, which, with the philharmonic, is a resident company in The Smith Center.
The facility opened in 2012, when it was determined the community was ready for a performing arts center and research had shown the impact would be far reaching, Martin said.
“People are in love with The Smith Center and the performances that happen here,” he added. “Ticket sales are beyond our wildest dreams.”
It provides first-run touring Broadway shows (subscribers for the 2014-2015 season totaled 10,198) and music, theater and dance from around the world. Additionally, the center will debut a brand new musical, “Idaho,” next July. The facility doubles as event space for corporate and education meetings, dinners, weddings, high school graduations and the like.
As for its regional effects, The Smith Center provides jobs, bolsters surrounding businesses and contributes to the economy. It’s a stop for economic development agents to highlight Southern Nevada for prospective, relocating businesses.
“It shows how a community embraces its residents and how a community can come together and do something great,” Martin said.
Businesses, some with season tickets, entertain clients or employees by taking them to shows. Companies can contribute by becoming sponsors and get their products or services before sizable audiences. Money raised from sponsorships and philanthropy account for 25 percent, or about $5 million, of the center’s budget with the rest coming from ticket sales.
The Smith Center also caters to Nevada’s future executives and entrepreneurs. Each year, about 200,000 local students visit it for daytime performances, master classes and workshops.
A second but long-lived Las Vegas arts and culture institution is the Nevada Ballet Theatre (NBT), now in its 43rd season. Last year, more than 20,000 people attended an NBT performance.
With a $4.7 million annual budget, NBT is a professional dance company and encompasses the Academy of Nevada Ballet Theatre, a school with more than 400 local students. Its educational outreach arm includes various programs designed to introduce and get youngsters to dance. Through the School Matinee Series, students see a professional, daytime performance.
“We’re really trying to continue the cultural growth of the community,” Barbre said.
The remainder of NBT’s current season showcases “A Balanchine Celebration,” “The Nutcracker,” “Cinderella” and “Romeo and Juliet.” The Studio Series, available to subscribers, takes patrons behind the scenes.
As for its ties to the local economy and business, NBT has spent more than $5 million over the years in employment of local dancers, musicians and technicians. It encourages companies to bring clients or other guests to performances; it offers discounts on sales of group tickets. Sponsorships are available (only 40 percent of theatre revenue comes from ticket sales), which corporate entities pursue, such as Barrick Gold, which has been the presenting sponsor for “The Nutcracker” the past two years.
“It’s an opportunity for them to invest in the cultural landscape of Las Vegas,” Barbre said. “They recognize the importance of an artistically and culturally vibrant community for their employees and, to a lesser extent, their guests.”
Happenings Up North
Northern Nevada’s arts/culture scene continues to grow, with the addition in recent years of new opportunities, such as the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum, The Generator, a community arts and builder space and new events like Discover Dickerson (Reno’s industrial arts district) and the Off Beat Arts & Music Festival.
“The reason that our arts/culture is so strong is the migration here of people who have lived in other metropolitan areas who expect it at a certain level,” said Scott Dunseath, president, RiverWalk Merchants Association (RWMA). The 65-member, nonprofit group launched in 1995 and is devoted to creating a vibrant downtown that celebrates arts and culture and draws locals and tourists to the RiverWalk.
A walkable region around the Truckee River and its Whitewater Park, the RiverWalk encompasses art galleries, restaurants, shops, a movie theater, performing arts venues, Startup Row, the baseball Aces Ballpark, bars, casinos and other small businesses. Dunseath added that the area needs more retail. RWMA’s main events are its monthly Wine Walk and bi-annual Dine in the District.
“It highlights everything in small strokes that Reno has to offer, in one small footprint,” said Dunseath, who’s also the owner of Reno eNVy, a RiverWalk retailer that celebrates the city’s misfit culture with irreverent shirts and novelty items. “It’s a gathering place for business and community that really represents the work/play Nevada lifestyle that we’re all used to.”
RWMA is working on collaborating with nearby University of Nevada, Reno to get more students to the RiverWalk, efforts that are congruent with the City of Reno’s vision to turn the downtown core into a university hub.
“With the economy turning the corner and with all these great, larger companies and organizations that are coming to Northern Nevada, I envision a renaissance of downtown,” Dunseath added.
Reno’s Nevada Museum of Art (NMA), founded in 1931, has been a driving force, as well. “The community recognized that a critical next step in its evolution is to have a world-class art museum facility that can accommodate important traveling shows and could gain the accreditation required to have outstanding artworks and objects in the museum,” said David Walker, executive director.
An estimated 120,000 people will visit the museum this year, more than a third of which are out-of-market. About 7,000 households currently hold memberships.
Construction is underway on a $6 million addition to the roof, the Sky Room, to allow for year-round use as an events space. It’s scheduled to open February 1. Even with the expansion, the museum has outgrown its square footage, so establishing a second facility nearby is in its five-year plan.
NMA displays about 30 diverse exhibits per year in its five thematic collecting areas, with subjects ranging from taxidermy and wildlife to famous artists’ works. Many of the shows are created in-house, and all must be sufficiently educational in nature. The establishment also houses and curates the Center for Art and Environment, an archive collection on humans’ creative interactions with natural and virtual environments. Its E.L. Cord Museum School holds art and design courses for students of all ages along with an array of hands-on programs for children and offerings for seniors, such as lectures. NMA events include First Thursdays, a community celebration with food and music, and Second Saturdays, when admission is free.
“The museum really strives to be a public square for Northern Nevada,” Walker said.
NMA has pumped about $10 million into the local economy and employed individuals and contractors. Companies considering relocating to the region spend time at the institution to learn the types of arts and culture amenities that exist regionally. Local business use it for meetings, events and power lunches at the in-house restaurant, Chez Louie. Via corporate memberships, companies, such as Wells Fargo and IGT, serve as sponsors and in return, receive free employee days and other perks.
“We are always looking for new, exciting and innovative ways to engage with our members and our community and keep things fresh,” Walker said.
The Rural Regions
Arts and culture centers in the state’s more remote regions that continue to offer programming include the Yerington Theatre for the Arts, Churchill Arts Council (Fallon), Great Basin A&E (Winnemucca), Western Folklife Center (Elko), Mesquite Arts Center and Pahrump Arts Council. A few of many draws are The Goldwell Open Air Museum in Beatty, a 15-acre outdoor sculpture park near Rhyolite, the annual Nevada State Fiddle Contest in Wells and events at the High Desert Arts and Culture Center in Hawthorne.
“We continue to work with [these organizations] to allow them to bounce ideas off of us and see where we might be able to streamline the way we get them funding or programs that might enhance their offerings to the community,” Boskoff said.
The consensus among experts is the number and variety of arts and culture offerings throughout the Silver State should keep expanding, primarily due to the increases in the population combined with the number of resident artists and what both want in their communities.
“Arts/culture is what contributes to the full human experience,” Barbre explained. “The more art that can be produced, the better for all of us.”
This featured content was sponsored by Cox Communications.
Cox Las Vegas makes a collective impact on communities in Southern Nevada
Cox Communications of Las Vegas, a leading provider of telecom services for the residential and commercial marketplace, believes its true distinguishing characteristics can be found in how it embraces its nearly 1,400 employees, how they reciprocate, and how they collectively impact Southern Nevada.For example, Cox Las Vegas has since 2007 awarded more than $1 million in grants to nonprofit organizations in Southern Nevada through its employee-led charitable giving program Cox Charities.
Already this year, Cox Charities has awarded $179,000 to more than two dozen nonprofit organizations. The funds were generated through an annual employee workplace giving campaign and golf tournament and primarily support organizations that focus on children, families, education, diversity and the arts.
Cox Las Vegas also makes an impact throughout the community through a formalized volunteer program that provides volunteer opportunities to employees and allows each to seek their own opportunities separate from company recommendations. In 2014, Cox employees logged more than 13,000 volunteer hours and the employees are on track to volunteer more than 18,000 hours in 2015.
The company’s Southern Nevada employees also play a big role in developing and supporting programs. For example, Cox’s Knowledge College initiative was created as a direct result of employees who said the company needed to take an active role in promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs and educational efforts in our community, including sponsorship of the annual Las Vegas Science & Technology Festival and Cox Stars of Science contest for high school students. Under the Cox Hearts for Arts program, the company moved to foster music outreach and education through the creation of the Cox Communications Young Artists’ Concerto Competition in partnership with the Las Vegas Philharmonic.
Cox is a company that is committed to diversity at a national and local level and has been recognized for the past eight years as the Top Operator for Women in the cable industry by Women in Cable Telecommunications and has been ranked among DiversityInc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity 10 times, including the last nine years. The Cox Las Vegas Diversity Scholarships initiative, targeted toward youth and education, has awarded $70,000 to 20 graduating local high school students in just the past two years.When you’re a company doing business, it’s easy to take your eye off the ball. But in Southern Nevada, Cox knows what’s most important—its employees and community.
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