Places, Everyone. It's Showtime
Conversation, Collaboration and The Smith Center.
Extending high into the skyline of downtown Las Vegas, The Smith Center for the Performing Arts is a marriage of art, function and architecture. Every accent in its dramatic campus manages to, in its immensity and grandeur, encompass a much more far-reaching sentiment: community.
Constructed during a time when many doubted Las Vegas had the wherewithal to sustain the brutal economic hit it had taken, The Smith Center’s design and décor drew its inspiration from another major triumph of Las Vegas over times of hardship and seemingly insurmountable doubt: the Hoover Dam. With its art deco touches everywhere from the door handles to the grand lobby of Reynolds Hall, it builds upon what Hoover Dam accomplished for Las Vegas in the 1930s: bringing together a community and giving Las Vegas a sense of place.
That is what The Smith Center is poised to do. It has given Las Vegas a new idea of itself for the post-recession economy. What this illustrates is a much bigger influence than “simply” a world-class performing arts center: it places Las Vegas in the same spotlight as other great cities.
The outlook for 2012 has been cautiously optimistic, with key indicators such as rising tourism numbers, upturns in revenues and an overall increase in business confidence pushing Las Vegas forward. The hopeful murmurings of “Vegas is back” are amplifying in both numbers and conviction. As Las Vegas emerges from the Great Recession, it is embracing the idea that economic growth and the ascent of Las Vegas as a great city will be driven by creativity – all different types, from the experimental performance artist to the investor who recognizes the ingenuity in a particular start-up. So what makes a city great, and how is The Smith Center the centerpiece?
“Great cities have great downtowns,” says Myron Martin, president and CEO of The Smith Center. Others, from Tony Hsieh in his efforts to revive Las Vegas’ historic downtown into a booming center to live, work and play, to urban economist Richard Florida, are inclined to agree with Martin. Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class and The Great Reset, proclaimed that downtown Las Vegas is “a fabulous area with great urban energy” and one of ten major urban neighborhoods to explore. The key to capitalizing on that creative energy and fostering it in terms of growth and sustainability throughout the entire Las Vegas community is, according to Florida, “creating and facilitating opportunities that will drive human interaction and clustering. Places that nurture urban clusters and connectivity are critically important to furthering economic prosperity.”
The Smith Center will be a cultural centerpiece for these urban clusters, connections and conversations. “It’s proven in city after city, from Newark to Forth Worth, that truly world class performing arts centers have a catalytic effect on these things. The Smith Center will be a game changer,” explains Martin. While Las Vegas has been a hotspot for concerts, headline acts and opulent productions on the Strip, this is different. This is a place for Las Vegas locals, a place for the community to converge and have meaningful conversations, collaborations and experiences.
“When I think of great cities, I think of important buildings and architecture. Oftentimes, what comes to my mind are great performance venues,” says Martin. “I see The Smith Center as being that for us, architecture that we took seriously, built to last for generations, and programming that is on par with the greatest performance venues in the world, which will change people’s perception about those of us who live here.”
The opening of The Smith Center represents an investment in the future of Las Vegas. Its contributors, patrons and the Las Vegas community as a whole have supported The Smith Center as a conductor of sustenance, adaptability and appeal of Las Vegas for a post-recession economy. At its core, it represents diversity – a longtime buzzword around economic recovery efforts – and is a major point of attraction for courting new businesses, industries and creative talent.
Martin speaks to this at length as he describes the impact The Smith Center will have on the business community and diversifying it for Nevada’s future. “There are concentric circles that will one day be drawn around The Smith Center, and in those circles will be new developments and opportunities to grow and change downtown,” he says. “I hope that what we do is create new opportunities for business in Las Vegas to recruit great talent, not only in the creative class, but in great executives and leaders, and we make it a better place to live in the process.”
Much has been said about the grandiosity and impression of The Smith Center, and the excitement surrounding its much-anticipated opening season. The Smith Center has plans far beyond its upcoming seasons and its built-to-last architecture. Part of its immense campus includes classrooms and an educational outreach program that has the potential to impact thousands of families here in Southern Nevada and give students a quality arts education. “Education is in our DNA; it’s what we do,” Martin says.
The Smith Center is vocal in its commitment to quality arts education and what that means for Las Vegas in terms of bringing in new talent, thinkers and leaders to the area. It is already impacting the youth of the community through its partnerships with the John F. Kennedy Center’s Any Given Child program, the Clark County School District and the Wolf Trap Foundation for Performing Arts in Virginia. The impact of these programs reaches into classrooms all over the valley, from preschool to K-12 levels, and has the potential to improve the quality, as well as the diversity, of education received throughout Southern Nevada.
The Smith Center and its initiatives provide what Martin refers to as “cultural infrastructure,” which he claims will be instrumental in attracting the types of industries and talent Las Vegas needs to grow its economy and increase its competitiveness with other cities.
“I hope that what we do is create new opportunities for business in Las Vegas to recruit great talent, not only in the creative class but great executives, and we make it a better place to live in the process,” he says.
In addition to creating opportunities for diversification, The Smith Center is positioned to be an anchor for an intellectual idea exchange, a convergence point in an area that has the support of one of the most recognizable business icons of the twenty-first century, some of the world’s foremost authorities on urban development and the local government of Las Vegas. In terms of business development, the diversity and intellectual potential of the campus and its neighbors, which include The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and The Lied Discovery Children’s Museum (opening later this year), represent a major stride forward in providing a cooperative place for ideas and growth in Las Vegas. Combining cutting edge medical technology, the fine arts and youth development, it is a convening point for major strides in business and economic advancement.
With the impact of The Smith Center opening already having a major ripple effect on all areas of Las Vegas’ economy, such as urban development downtown, education, business development and diversification efforts, it is easy to see where the excitement derives. As a major center of collaboration, conversation and culture, Las Vegas looks to it with anticipation for not only its entertainment, but its potential for the entire community.