LAS VEGAS ART MUSEUM
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE LAS VEGAS ART MUSEUM
by Vivian Woods
The story of the Las Vegas Art Museum is a tale of dedicated groups of unselfish people who never gave up. It began with a few artists and beginners who wanted to be artists. Officially it became an organization called the Las Vegas Art League on February 27, 1950, organized by Lucille Bruner, a newcomer to Vas Vegas, who was shocked by the lack of art here after living in Santa Fe, which is very art oriented. She is not only a fine artist but an art teacher too. Monthly meetings, art classes, occasional exhibitions and fun-raisers were held wherever free space was available.
In 1966, the city of Las Vegas purchased the Twin Lakes Lodge with its empty six-unit motel buildings, surrounding property, and two lakes. (The name was changed to Lorenzi, a former owner of the property, and became a park.) A committee of League members asked for space and was given the use of three buildings. Over the next 29 years, with more volunteers and donations, they remodeled the space into galleries, gift shop, office, classroom, and a vault for the beginnings of a permanent collection of original art. (Most of the collection may now be seen on loan at the Community College of Southern Nevada, West Charleston campus.)
In 1974, having fulfilled the national requirements, the Las Vegas Art League became the Las Vegas Art Museum. With the help of more volunteers and fund-raisers, LVAM became known to artists and galleries locally and outside of Las Vegas. The museum put on frequent juried and judged art shows, and more than 20 national competitions. Some of our finest local artists of today took classes and workshops at the old Las Vegas Art Museum. Scholarships were awarded to talented children.
The Collector's Corner offered to collectors a market for their no-longer-wanted original art by way of silent auctions, with any amount over the minimum bid going to the museum. Another LVAM activity was the Suitcase Gallery, inherited from the Junior League. Suitecases containing works of art with examples from Art Through The Ages, Western Art, and Contemporary Art, were taken to fifth-grade students in local schools. As soon as sponsors are available, the Suitcase Gallery will again become active.
All through the years, those associated with LVAM never gave up the dream of having "a proper building for the arts, artists, and those who appreciated art. At one time, some of the members drew up plans for an 18-story "Southern Nevada Creative Center" to be located in Lorenzi Park "for the cultural and economic benefit of Southern Nevadans". Unfortunately, not enough people agreed with the plan. During another period, an effort was made to obtain the Fifth Street School for an art center. Many people worked on this project for several years but the City never approved it. (It is still a police station.) There is still a need for an arts center in downtown Las Vegas.
After the City evicted LVAM from Lorenzi Park to usurp its space, the group spent 15 months in a small shopping center far from the park. Many of the members and the general public never found them! With so many years spent in working for a cause they loved, the volunteers could not give up, though it looked like they might have to. It was then that the beautiful fine-arts museum at 9600 West Sahara Avenue was finished by the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, with no available entity to operate it. An LVAM committee presented a proposal , and after months of Library Board hearings, LVAM was chosen to occupy and run the facility. The LVAM Board of Directors and volunteers knew it would be difficult, especially financially, but what a challenge!
The first year in the new quarters has been a great success under the capable stewardship of the Board of Directors, and of President Joseph Palermo, Vice President Sharon King, and Curator Dr. James Mann, the first professional to lead the organization. All those enthusiastic volunteers have helped enormously too. The public seems to be very pleased with the new Las Vegas Art Museum. Membership more than doubled in 1997, and there are constant inquiries about local competitions, art classes, singles mixers, and above all, the exhibitions.
Happy 48th Anniversary, LVAM, and many happy returns.
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