Although it definitely offers plenty of visual stimulation, Sin City is more commonly associated with high rollers, showgirls and the slogan “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” than the arts. Lately, however, the town is claiming a title attached to more artistic pursuits as well.
The downtown arts district, referred to as “18b,” exists in a 20-block area around Charleston and Main. This is the heart of Vegas’ arts scene—with nearly 75 art galleries, studios, shops, restaurants, bars and other businesses—where First Friday, the most popular local arts event (held 6 to 10 p.m. on the first Friday of the month), takes place. The Arts Factory, a First Friday must-do, houses two floors of photographers’, painters’ and graphic designers’ studios, as well as other creative organizations such as the Contemporary Arts Center.
On the institutions front, the Las Vegas Art Museum was established in 1950, first under the moniker of the Las Vegas Art League. In 1974, the art league became the Las Vegas Art Museum and the first fine art museum in the state. Today, the facility presents works by emerging and internationally recognized contemporary artists. The CityCenter, MGM Mirage’s $8 billion, 76-acre hotel/casino/residential/retail development, is scheduled to open on the strip in late 2009, featuring commissioned and acquired works by big names such as Jenny Holzer, Frank Stella, Maya Lin, Nancy Rubins and others.
And don’t forget the art to be found right on the strip, inside casino hotels like Bellagio. Its lobby begs visitors to look up at the 2,000 hand-blown Chihuly flowers that bedeck the ceiling, and the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art presents world-class exhibitions of art drawn from internationally known museums and private collections. Need to refuel along the trek? Picasso at Bellagio showcases works by Pablo Picasso along with fine dining, and Les Artistes Steakhouse, in Paris Las Vegas, serves creative food for thought.
Travel on the web: www.artslasvegas.org, www.lasvegasartmuseum.org, www.citycenter.com, www.bellagio.com/amenities/gallery-of-fine-art.aspx, www.parislasvegas.com/casinos/paris-las-vegas/restaurants-dining/les-artistes-steakhouse-detail.html.
Pictured, top: The strip is home to 17 of the 20 largest hotels in the United States, many of which feature famous original works of art. Courtesy of Las Vegas News Bureau
Bottom left: Bellagio’s lobby ceiling features 2,000 Chihuly hand-blown glass flowers. Courtesy of MGM Mirage
Bottom right: The showgirl and the welcome sign are two of the city’s most endearing icons. Courtesy of Las Vegas News Bureau