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Victim of economy, Las Vegas Art Museum will close next week

The Las Vegas Art Museum, Southern Nevada's first fine-arts museum and one of the city's cultural mainstays since 1950, has become the latest victim of a disastrous economy.

Museum spokeswoman Anne Kellogg said the final day of exhibitions will be February 28. The decision was made by the Board of Trustees Thursday, Kellogg said, adding it was by no means a spur-of-the-moment decision.

"The board and the museum staff have been exhausting themselves for the past year, doing everything they know how to do in terms of fundraising, but the money is just not there," Kellogg said, adding 97 seven percent of the museum's budget is funded by the private sector, and that no money comes in from the government.

"We're beholden to the generosity of the public, and in Las Vegas, all of the philanthropic dollars come primarily from real estate and gaming, and those two sectors have been hard hit in Las Vegas," Kellogg said.

Former Las Vegas Art Museum director Libby Lumpkin, who resigned unexpectedly on December 2 had this to say: "As for LVAM: I’m saddened by the announcement of the closure. The Las Vegas Art Museum became a rudimentary organization in 1950—Nevada’s oldest cultural institution. The museum has not announced its plans for the collection, but I imagine most of it will be dispersed to institutions in other cities. The gift of artworks from the National Gallery in Washington, DC, will likely be transferred to the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno. The thousands of children who visited the museum each year will no longer be able to take advantage of the first-rate education programs we worked so hard to develop. It is a terrible loss to the community. Las Vegas is experiencing an economic Katrina. We are a changed city."

The future of the museum's staff - nine full-time staffers, 35 docents and four paid attendants - is still up in the air, but regardless, there is much to be done before the museum can officially close, including making sure the museum's current show, "LA Now," curated by David Pagel, is returned to its owner. "Everyone here is dedicated to making that transition as smooth as possible," Kellogg said. "This isn't like closing an insurance office, where you just turn the key and walk away. When you're talking about fine art, that [transition] becomes a big part of the equation."

In addition, decisions must be made about the future of LVAM's own pieces of art. "You can't just take those to the nearest Storage One. They have to be properly stored," Kellogg said.

In the meantime, Kellogg said the mood at the museum is mostly a positive one. "I think we've been really lucky in that we've been honored to do what we've done. We're a pretty tight crew, so everyone's been really supportive, pulling up sleeves and getting everything done.

"Nobody's acting out," she said.

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Ken Miller is Las Vegas Weekly's associate editor, having previously served as assistant features editor at the Las Vegas Sun ...

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