Las Vegas arts champion
Michele Quinn is a gallery owner, curator and art administrator in Las Vegas. She co-curated the 2016 exhibit Tilting the Basin at Reno’s Nevada Museum of Art and developed the $40 million art collection at CityCenter in Las Vegas. On Oct. 18, Quinn will give a talk titled “Vegas Culture on the Rise” at the Community Development Building, a.k.a. The Brick, 108 E. Proctor St., Carson City. A reception begins at 6:15 p.m., and the talk is slated for 7 p.m. Admission is free.
What does Las Vegas’s public art scene look like lately?
I think it’s sort of dramatically changed. Obviously, my point of reference always starts with CityCenter—large-scale installations available to the public for free. It’s continued to evolve. We just finished with [mural festival] Life is Beautiful. They did a large, major outdoor mural. … Last but not least, we just installed the Ugo Rondinone project in the desert, 15 minutes outside of the city. That’s become an international conversation. It’s been received by people worldwide. People from Spain are traveling to visit that installation. Japanese magazines have had it on their cover. Vogue did a photo shoot on it.
How are locals responding to that piece?
There was a lot of skepticism in the beginning. Not everybody understood the idea of painted rocks as art. Even people I thought would be very receptive to it had some hesitation. Honestly, those people who were naysayers are now saying, “It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.”
How about the gallery scene? A lot of good galleries have come and gone over the years and had trouble gaining a foothold.
I’ve had four galleries here. The gallery scene is still a struggle. It was starting to gain momentum, and we all got hit by the economy. We’re working on building a museum here. I’m on the board for Art Museum at Symphony Park. We have a partner on the project that has promised a parcel of land. [That partner is the city of Las Vegas.] To build a visual art museum in that kind of environment, things will really change. Once we start building an educational component, then the galleries will really be viable. … We are in conversation with the Nevada Museum of Art to begin a statewide institution. … We asked [the state] for 10 million but we got a million. … So we have strong governmental support. MGM is already a supporter. Switch is already a supporter. We’re making great strides to get further along in this process.
Do you have a sense yet of what the programming might be like?
It wouldn’t be the same as NMA. We are a unique city. As much as I love Reno, we are very different from Reno. There will be shared resources, shared exhibitions, that kind of thing. As far as programming—we don’t even have any walls yet. … It’s all very preliminary.
You’re speaking to high school and college students while you’re in Northern Nevada. Could you share one or two of the points you’ll talk with those audiences about?
I think some of it is just engaging with them about the project here. I spoke at an arts high school here last week and was surprised by how many people hadn’t been to CityCenter. And the Ugo Rondinone, even though we have people coming from all over the world, people in our own backyard haven’t seen it.