The Art of Closing

The city of Las Vegas shutters cultural center gallery

In tough economic times, it’s often the little people that lose. Case in point: the art gallery inside Reed Whipple Cultural Center (821 Las Vegas Blvd. North).

Earlier this year, the Las Vegas City Council set aside $25,000 to partially restore funding to the center after a proposal emerged to shutter it due to a budget shortfall. Public outcry allowed more funding to be secured, saving the center’s current programs: Rainbow Company Youth Theatre, the Neon Museum’s temporary office and the Las Vegas Youth Orchestra. However, the art gallery space was closed last week and will remain empty. The cost was $4,000 to $5,000 per year to run the gallery.

While not as huge a loss as last year’s closing of the Las Vegas Art Museum, the Reed Whipple gallery, which opened in 1979, hosted a number of noteworthy and well-received shows, including Altered States: Artists Re-imagine the Book, curated by L.A. artist Joseph Shuldiner.

Moreover, countless local and regional artists had their works featured in solo and group exhibits over the course of the gallery’s 30-year history. Some of the city’s top artists—Wendy Kveck, Catherine Borg, Aaron Sheppard, Danielle Kelly—have curated and/or exhibited work there.

Indeed, Vegas artists are already feeling the impact. Erin Stellmon and Elizabeth Blau, for instance, were scheduled to have a joint show in the gallery this fall. That show is canceled with no plans revive it.

Stellmon, who works for the Neon Museum, says the Reed Whipple gallery benefited from international visitors who would stroll down the Boulevard to visit after touring the Boneyard, an outdoor collection of old neon signs.

“Very often people mistakenly believe they have to drive to the middle of nowhere to see the Neon Museum,” Stellmon says. “The gallery helped to show visitors that there’s actual culture happening down here.”

The state of culture in the Cultural Corridor is now wavering. The Neon Museum is not yet open, and the Lied Discovery Children’s Museum has been threatening to leave for years. Culture will continue to happen at the northern edge of the city across from Cashman Center, of course, but on a more limited scale. The city’s other art spaces remain open—at least for the time being.

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