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Local Culture: Where art thou, arts?

OPINION: building vibrant local cultural identity key to city life quality

symphony orchestra pavilion cello-In the past year, Henderson has lost a number of significant arts offerings, both public and private. The Shakespeare in the Park Festival, a popular cultural mainstay for nearly 30 years is – at least for now – no more. Shannon McMackin’s VAST Art Space quickly established itself as one of the best contemporary art galleries in the entire valley, but closed its doors after three years and has left a major void. ArtBeat presented by Target featured an eclectic mix of often talented – sometimes brilliant – musical artists and drew large crowds to the Events Plaza in the spring and fall. It, too, is gone.

VAST Space Projects. Photo by Buford Davis | iH

VAST Space Projects. Photo by Buford Davis | iH

Since conductor Tiras Krysa joined The Henderson Symphony Orchestra nine years ago, this group of amateur musicians has evolved into one of the city’s strongest cultural institutions – often filling the Pavilion with patrons to hear highly complex works.

Krysa’s replacement will inherit an orchestra confident and competent enough to present some of the greatest pieces in classical music. He has consistently and deftly chosen performances that blend works familiar and accessible to those who have just begun to explore the genre with those exotic to even seasoned listeners. The highly popular Charlie Chaplin events have also drawn an audience who might not otherwise attend their first symphony event.

Chalk artist, Art Festival of Henderson. Photo by Buford Davis, iH

Chalk artist, Art Festival of Henderson. Photo by Buford Davis, iH

Much of what visibly constitutes arts and culture in Henderson is influenced more by the work of the city’s Cultural Arts and Tourism department than private artists or arts entities (although both exist and tend to struggle economically for existence). Although organizers do perform admirably under significant constraints and sometimes manage to bring highly talented artists to the city (the 2013 Jesse Cook concert at the Pavilion is a recent example), many bookings leave much to be desired, independent of genre, or are fine performances that are geared principally to children.

City leaders focus on phrases like ‘family-friendly’ and ‘Americas Premiere Community’ as touchstones in attempts to sculpt a community identity, and there is certainly a place for arts that fit into this image.

Local ballet students from Fern Adair Academy. Photo by Buford Davis | iH

Local ballet students from Fern Adair Academy. Photo by Buford Davis | iH

But also needed is support by the community (government and otherwise) of arts that may or may not fit so nicely into that framework – from theater companies to craftspeople, visual and musical artists in need of performance and exhibition spaces. A city may be safe and shiny, well-planned and well maintained, but it cannot truly be ‘premiere’ without organic creative energy. Such energy has the potential to snowball and meaningfully shape a local arts culture.

The arts are not a luxury.  Access to them should not be restricted to a privileged few. Nor are they the playground of the intelligensia. The arts are for everyone, and failure to include everyone diminishes us all.

Though the talent is here waiting to be nurtured, it is too often relegated to a rented hall or coffee shop and goes little noticed by the general public. Left fully in the hands of government, a city can easily market itself into cultural mediocrity. We can do much better. We can be much more.

A public wall in Venice, Calif., dedicated to the art of graffiti is a constantly morphing display of creative talents. Photo by Buford Davis | iH

A public wall in Venice, Calif., dedicated to the art of graffiti is a constantly morphing display of creative talents. Photo by Buford Davis | iH

At the recent memorial service in London for the late Sir Richard Attenborough, his brother David read the celebrated film director’s words from 20 years ago: “The arts are not a luxury. They are as crucial to our well-being, to our existence, as eating and breathing. Access to them should not be restricted to a privileged few. Nor are they the playground of the intelligensia. The arts are for everyone, and failure to include everyone diminishes us all.”

We sincerely hope the Henderson Symphony will prosper, both in terms of artistic expression and economic health in coming years. Its importance to the city’s cultural landscape is difficult to overstate. | iH

This Editor’s Note was featured on page 4 of the April 2015 issue of Inside Henderson Magazine.


 

 

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