Las Vegas takes step in cultural direction


*logoLast week’s approval by the Las Vegas City Council to green-light construction on the Smith Center for the Performing Arts marked a cultural milestone for a city long defined by the fake (Elvis impersonators, city-themed hotels), the fast (quickie weddings and divorces) and the just plain over-the-top (Cirque shows, topless pools, prix fixe menus whose prices are as much as a car payment).

Located downtown, the $475 million complex will house the Las Vegas Philharmonic and Nevada Ballet Theatre and host music, theater and dance companies from all over the world as well as local productions, first-run touring attractions and Broadway-style shows.

The center will have three performance venues: a 2,050-seat, multipurpose main hall; an education building with a 300-seat cabaret theater; and a 200-seat studio theater for rehearsals, children’s theater and community events.

"Las Vegas has a very bright cultural future on the world stage," said Myron G. Martin, president of the Smith Center for the Performing Arts. "This city made a strong commitment to fostering cultural and educational opportunities through this outstanding public-private partnership that will attract a broad cross-section of residents and visitors."

Construction will begin in a few months, and the center is slated to open in 2012. Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, one of the center’s biggest proponents, said, "The Smith Center for the Performing Arts is a cornerstone in building our reputation as a world-class city with arts, culture and outstanding architecture."

Indeed, the same magnetism that draws top popular entertainers could be used to lure top talent in orchestra, opera, dance and other genres, while also offering an operational base to organically build the type of cultural and performing arts scenes that define cities such as New York.

The Smith Center could help Las Vegas finally round the bend and earn respect for something other than its ability to traffic in mindless escapism.

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