The maturation of our city

Las Vegas has gotten a bad rap for its cultural sophistication, but we’re getting there

Bruce Spotleson

Bruce Spotleson

I’ve never agreed with folks who complain that Las Vegas lacks culture. It seems to me Las Vegas has had, for quite some time now, more culture than most other cities.

Maybe it’s the way I define the term. I count Cirque du Soleil, our art collections, our eclectic entertainment schedule and the traveling exhibits that so often come here. Over the years, I’ve had amazing cultural experiences.

Granted, they may have been produced to attract tourists, but ours has been a rich environment — even before the venues and museums we’ve opened recently came online.

The addition of state-of-the-art halls such as the Smith Center for the Performing Arts may seem like mere icing on our cake, but they provide a world of inspiration many hometown organizations needed.

One group already benefiting is the Nevada Las Vegas Philharmonic, a resident company at the Smith Center.

The Philharmonic in the past performed quite splendidly at UNLV’s Artemus Ham Hall. But a recent screening of the 1931 silent film “City Lights” showed off a happy pairing with its new home at the Smith Center.

Charlie Chaplin produced, starred in and wrote the music for the film. He would have been impressed to hear how it sounded when the Philharmonic brought his original score to life.

The concert was one of nine performances planned for this season, themed “A Year In Pictures.”

The Chaplin experience was so stirring that, despite 14 years of performing, one might think the Philharmonic’s time finally has arrived.

“One of the things we would like to get across to the community is that ‘getting there’ is very important to us,” said Jennifer Scott, the Philharmonic’s public relations consultant who has worked with the San Francisco Symphony, Metropolitan Opera and Cleveland Orchestra. “But we would like to stay there, and we need support from the community to make the most of being in a world-class venue.”

Scott acknowledged that the acoustics and central location of Ham Hall provide an important venue for the Philharmonic, as well as for other performance organizations in our metro area. “But the Smith Center has taken that up a notch,” she said. “It certainly is being held up as an example that the city has culture, that it’s culturally sophisticated.”

The Philharmonic was one of the groups that helped “tune” the Smith Center last March, demonstrating to building personnel for the first time what the hall sounded like with a full orchestra.

It will keep playing throughout the remainder of the current season, which runs until spring, with many performances for local students sprinkled in the mix.

“There’s sort of a groundswell of passion for arts and culture and pride for a city that’s going through a maturation,” Scott said.

A city that always had some culture, but has even more now — regardless of how you define the term.