Is There Culture in Vegas?
I recently moved to Vegas and have been desperately searching for culture ever since. This was my biggest fear about moving there-not the excessive sex, drugs, alcohol and gambling so much, but the lack of culture kept me up at night. But what was I to do? I landed a role in the new Cirque du Soleil show about Elvis and that is where the show is! Besides I have been doing things I have never done before in my life, like gone 70 feet in the air across the stage! I had to take the job right?
My alma mater, The College Conservatory of Music of Cincinnati, announced that I was doing the show in one of their newsletters and one of the alumni emailed me to assure me that indeed there is culture in Vegas. He is the musical director for Cirque du Soleil’s “Ka” and said that I would be “happy to know about your work with original pieces out in LA and I think you'll be glad to know that there is a small but vibrant community of writers, playwrights and composers out here in Vegas that would welcome your friendship. There have been whispers of a new works festival out here for years and with artists like yourself joining the community, it gets closer to a reality.” That gave me some hope! But alas, no new works festival yet, so where does one go to find culture? It turns out that on the first Friday of every month, you can find it!
It is a hot Friday night in Vegas and the spirit is festive and the drinks are ice cold! I am in downtown Las Vegas, where, once a month the pedestrian-friendly streets transform into a huge block party during FIRST FRIDAY. Each celebration, the entertainment shifts and multiplies as ice sculptors, fire breathers and fortune tellers serve as a back-drop for this ongoing festival of art perusal and appreciation. Local bands perform throughout the evening, and the streets turn into canvasses for children (young and old) to decorate with chalk. FIRST FRIDAY is a stage for local galleries and Las Vegas' vital Downtown cultural scene. It's a place to meet friends new and old, and rejoice in the preservation and innovation of an historical neighborhood. In this land of suburbs and strip malls, it is a welcome cultural event that is well worth the price of admission-Free!
Since it began in October of 2002, FIRST FRIDAY grown every year. It is now considered the premier arts event in Las Vegas. From the shops and galleries on Charleston (the Arts Factory, S2, Main Gallery and more) to the new galleries on Main Street (Atomic Todd and others) to the spaces on Commerce St. (Commerce Street Studios), down to the whimsical offerings of The Funk House antique store, and the art galleries and vintage shops in the cottages on Colorado. And no matter how you decide to get around, you can always expect a diverse crowd, cool local art, live music, street performances and plenty of surprises!
Now, don’t get me wrong, Las Vegas as plenty of entertainment. Everything from the Lion King to Jersey Boys is there if you can afford the $100 plus ticket! Las Vegas also has a ballet company that is very diverse and exciting. It is a combination of traditional and modern dance styles. In fact, they also do a co-production with my new employer, Cirque du Soleil which is a choreographer’s showcase. That is something that I will look forward to seeing, along with attending First Friday every month! Ok, so Las Vegas has some culture…but is it enough to encourage artists like me from out of town to stay? Not quite yet….
Written by Che’Rae Adams for NOHOARTSDISTRICT.COM Sept 2009
by Che'Rae Adams
Producing Artistic Director of the LAWC