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...

Monday, May 26, 2014

Ode to Revitalization

Dr. Laura Henkel proprietor of
Sin City Gallery & ArtCulturePR
Las Vegas 
By Dr. Laura Henkel, contributing writer

Since I was born, I would go to Miami every summer to visit family. My family were early settlers of the city and I would always hear about 27th Avenue being the edge of town whereby the 'Everglades' began.  As a kid, I would fish with my Grandfather off The Rickenbacker Causeway wearing a big straw hat and one of his button down long-sleeve shirts so I wouldn't fry in the sun.  I heard about the glamour of Miami Beach in the 50's and 60's, The Fontainebleau's elegance, the celebrities, the mob, and so on.  In the late 80s, I moved to Miami.  Moving from Dallas, I quickly segued into snorkeling in the Florida Keys, power boating, and sun bathing on Miami Beach. (yes, completely negating what my elders tried to instill in me as a kid regarding the sun, yet persistently lathering up with baby oil and iodine so that I might be the living incarnate of the Coppertone kid in pigtails.)  

South Beach in the early 90's wasn't what it is today.  It was forgotten, old and decrepit. Being in my 20's, it was a little depressing to see so many elderly staring at the beach from their perches on Ocean Drive.  Unbeknownst to me when I arrived, I did not know that developers had already seen the future and entrepreneurs began to breathe new life into the area.  I found myself at the right place at the right time.

Romero Britto opened a gallery and The Van Dyke, a beer pub, literally set the stage for revitalization on Lincoln Road.  Lincoln Road, an outdoor shopping center, similar to Commercial Center, was all but abandoned.  There were quirky businesses in there; a dance studio and the best vintage clothing stores (thank you Miami glamour of the 50/60's).  Soon, fabulous nightclubs full of imagination on and off of Collins Avenue began to take hold between Lincoln Road and Ocean Drive.  After a night of dancing, I could go to Wolfie's, have a delightful breakfast, and imagine Meyer Lansky walking through the front door.

I remember the Cleveland Hotel as one of the first of the Art-Deco hotels to have a complete makeover.  It was fun to sunbath on the beach and see the renovations of those old grand deco hotels revamped one by one.  The elderly slowly disappeared to make way for Cafe News and other yummy eateries.   Versace came to town and designed an incredible private villa from one of the coolest apartment buildings on Ocean Drive. It was exciting to be part of that synergy of creativity and development by supporting those new businesses.  Twenty years later, Art Basel and those old grand homes by the Miami Herald have once again become posh and an art/design district was born.   (I gotta say that I got a little teary eyed when I heard that the old Sears Tower would serve as the new opera house/concert hall for the City of Miami.  http://learningfrommiami.org/?p=1555)

And now, here I am in Las Vegas.  I'm feeling the same creative and synergistic vibe in DTLV (Downtown Las Vegas) as I did in South Beach.   It's pretty amazing to be a part of change that supports a community at large.  It is a very special moment in time and I enjoy supporting the local businesses, artists and art establishments.   It's pretty damn cool to know someone by their first name and it is even cooler to recognize that everyone in this town knows everyone by one degree of separation.  

So while fondly remembering the growth and changes of South Beach, while recognizing the importance of what is happening around me today in DTLV, I am inspired by the forward-thinking entrepreneurs that make this place so special.  While I follow on the heels of Miami, I would really like to see Las Vegas become the West Coast epicenter for the arts.  Those white tents at the World Market would make an exceptional spot to host an international art fair.   There are plenty of hotel rooms to accommodate the mecca of artists and patrons that would come from all over the world.  And, talk about easy access!  Hell, you can catch transportation directly from the airport to the World Market.  Look at Miami's model, refine it, make it work for LV... more tourism... more dollars... from Strip to Streets of DTLV... from Venice to Vegas (hello Anthony Bondi´╗┐)... so many bright and talented creatives in this town alone, such an untapped market, and a destination that everyone would enjoy.  Planting seeds, planting seeds.  A Vegas Biennale, collaborating with Venice, would be simply amazing!

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

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


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