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As We See It

Culture takes a hit

Closing Reed Whipple will save money, but at what cost?

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It’s a Girl Thing” exhibit at the Reed Whipple Cultural Center Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2009.
Photo: Leila Navidi

To help reduce an overwhelming deficit, the city of Las Vegas will close Reed Whipple Cultural Center to the public on July 1. No more dance classes, summer camps, art programs for youth. No more ceramics labs and well-curated contemporary art exhibits that feature works by local, national and international artists.

Who cares, right? It's just culture and this happens everywhere, especially now, what with the bad economy and all. But tell that to the 75,000 people who (according to the city) visit the center annually. Places such as Reed Whipple create a community identity in a city known for hyper transition.

The center's gallery was a worthwhile destination in a city short on art spaces. One example out of many: Sugar Rush, from 2007, may have been one of Las Vegas' best art exhibits. It featured Korean artists from Brooklyn, whose thoughtful and spectacular works were played out through the conversation of consumerism, gender and pop culture. But there were so many good shows there. Visitors went to see the art, but endured the kids dancing, jumping and tumbling on the creaky floor above. The noise could be aggravating. But it was also precious. It was the mark of a well-used community center, colored with history, a center with a soul, serving a very diverse and urban demographic.

For now, the city spared the Rainbow Company Youth Theatre and the Las Vegas Youth Orchestra, which will operate out of the center until further notice. Current art and dance classes will continue through summer, then move to the city's three other cultural centers.

Across from the now-rising Neon Museum, this leaves a huge gap in the area. It's sad to lose something as precious as identity.

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Kristen Peterson

Kristen Peterson joined the Las Vegas Sun in 1998 as a general assignment reporter. In 2003, she turned her focus ...

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