enculturating las vegas into the next millennium... art, dance, film, music, poetry, theater, history, nature and everything else that enriches the lives of those who live and visit southern nevada... Since 2003...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

New York Art Snob gives Vegas the Snub... The Saga Continues...

Several weeks ago Kristen Petersen, arts writer for the Las Vegas Weekly reported on a story about Las Vegas' art scene written by Julia Halperin for Artinfo on March 24.  The missive by Halperin enraged the arts community and prompted several individuals to write letters-to-the-editor.  I even chimed in by writing small piece for this blog about her misinformed article.

So on April 4th Halperin responded in Artinfo to the letters by Las Vegas art supporters. Her second article plays to the usual song and dance about renowned art critics Dave Hickey and Libby Lumpkin's departure from Las Vegas two years ago and about the closing of several museums. Now granted Dave and Libby's departure left a small hole in the scene but it by no means was catastrophic as she makes it sound. And as far as museums closing, yes it is a blow, but we are not the only community that has seen some of its art institutions shutter. What is most perplexing by her response is a comment she makes; "Having spent a week in Las Vegas as an art-interested visitor, I also articulated my personal frustrations with the city's art offerings." http://www.artinfo.com/news/story/37368/learning-from-las-vegas-readers-respond-to-our-takedown-of-sin-citys-art-scene/ If Halperin was truly an "art interested visitor" she would have done her due diligence and have found out that Las Vegas does have a vibrant arts community. As Las Vegas native and Downtown business owner James P. Reza so beautifully points out in his letter-to-the-editor printed below; just a simple Google search for Las Vegas Arts and Culture would have given her more information that she could shake a stick at regarding the arts in our city.

In the end, when journalists like Julia Halperin visit Las Vegas or any city for that matter, they do a huge disservice to the residents of that community when they do not do their research and arrive with preconceived notions and then report about it. It would be like me visiting New York City and just staying in Times Square and not venturing out beyond Radio City Music Hall. In either case if Julia decides to come back, though I highly doubt it now that she has cemented herself as Persona Non Grata, she will have a much better understanding about Las Vegas' passionate art community.

To the Editors: By James P. Reza

So, Julia Halperin comes to Las Vegas, plants herself on the Strip, writes about how art and Las Vegas don't mix, and then responds to the criticisms by making excuses for her failure to find art?

Her passive-aggressive mea culpa fails in exactly the same way her initial column did. It downplays the uniqueness of homegrown Las Vegas art ("Other responses we received were almost as dubious as the Cosmopolitan's log art") and then proceeds to slam the Neon Museum, which she most certainly could have visited, even in its undone state. It makes lame excuses for a lazy approach -- "I tried to present the art scene from the perspective of a tourist — I reported what I saw when I searched for art around the city as any culturally-minded visitor might do" -- meaning she never left the three mile phantasmagoria of the Strip.

Why not at least Google "arts district" (a search that might have pointed her to First Friday, the CAC, Brett Wesley Contemporary...) or "performing arts" (the Smith Center and UNLV). By looking for art only in casinos, she missed a vibrant scene that is both homegrown and larger than life, D.I.Y. and world-class, and also incredibly accessible to patrons and artists alike. Halperin also missed interacting with locals who will plainly tell you one thing she might not ever "get": Las Vegas was built for and lives on the dollar of tourists who come to eat, drink, shop, gamble and escape. Locals might tell Halperin that the arts and cultural scene here is one by and for locals -- not because visitors don't care about art, but because that isn't why they visit Las Vegas. We give them what they want so that we can have what we want.

That's okay. Plenty of smarter people have fallen victim to desperately hoping for an afternoon of MOMA and Lavazza in Las Vegas. But what is worse, and what has plagued Las Vegas from day one of its existence, is critics like Halpern parachuting in and trying to judge Las Vegas based upon the clichéd old school of what constitutes art and culture. While she was moping around the Strip bemoaning the loss of Dave Hickey, she was missing the world's single largest collection of pop art ever assembled, the Strip itself. Wasting all that time looking for her narrow definition of "art" on the Strip is like looking for art in Disneyland; once you've found it, what are you going to do with it?

What a tired, miserable, mess she must have been, wandering around the sagebrush forest looking for the pine trees.
For more information...

Julia Halperin's original article in Artinfo - 

Brian Paco Alvarez enculturating Las Vegas into the millennium...

posted by Brian Paco Alvarez, Curator and Chronicler of Culture at


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