Learning from Las Vegas: Place Marketing and the Arts

Dr. Paul L. Knox,
Dr. Kylie H. Johnson
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The arts have become a significant factor in the ability of places to attract and retain other kinds of economic activity. Seeking to be competitive within the globalizing economy, many places have sponsored extensive makeovers of themselves, including the development of arts centers, museums, and cosmopolitan cultural facilities. Through place marketing, cities are increasingly being reinterpreted, re-imagined, designed, packaged, and marketed. As a result, contemporary landscapes contain increasing numbers of inauthentic settings—what David Harvey has called the “degenerative utopias” of global capitalism; the proscenia for Guy Debord’s “society of the spectacle.” Nowhere are they more explicit than in the simulation of European tourist hot spots in Las Vegas, Nevada, a city which, as historian Hal Rothman puts it, built its success by aiming to merely “occupy, distract, and arguably pacify its audience.”

Into this spectacularized environment, a public-private partnership is now developing a world-class performing and fine arts center focused on bringing the more traditional cultural art forms—symphonic music, ballet, opera—to the city. This paper explores the development of the Las Vegas Arts Center, with special emphasis on the role of the arts in the context of the political economy and cultural milieux of the city.

Keywords: Arts Centers, Museumization, Place Marketing, Economic Development, Cultural Identity
Stream: Arts Agendas, Supporting the Arts, Art in Communities
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Learning from Las Vegas

Dr. Paul L. Knox

University Distinguished Professor and Dean, College of Architecture and Urban Studies, Virginia Tech

Dr. Kylie H. Johnson

Director of Development for Fine and Performing Arts, University Development, Virginia Tech

Ref: A06P0104