Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Introducing SenArts

The Legislative Building is a great place to work.  Even though, as a Las Vegas resident, it's a bit of a commute for me, I still take tremendous pride in calling the Legislative Building in Carson City my primary workplace.  The Legislative Building is prestigious without being ostentatious.  It is appropriately formal while not being off-putting to visitors.  But more than anything, the place is consequential.  Whether you find yourself on the right or on the left, Republican or Democrat, we can all agree that what happens in the Legislative Building... Matters.  With a capital "M."

It seems to me that Nevada's Legislative Building has fallen short in one key area: as a showcase for the arts.  Sure, we have long had art displays, but until now they've seemed almost an afterthought.  As an unrepentant legislative nerd, I have visited many state Capitols across the country; I visited two, for example, over this past summer on a family vacation to New England.  Most Capitols, besides housing legislatures, serve as a hub for the arts, embracing the arts as a vital outlet of a state's creativity and potential.  Over the last couple of months, with the help of several key partners, we have begun exploring new ways to showcase the arts in the Senate areas of the Legislative Building.  What we've discovered along the way is the unbounded potential and tremendous spirit sometimes laying untapped within our own legislative staff.

Introducing SenArts.  Under one umbrella, the Nevada Senate will be promoting the arts in a variety of ways:

  • Better signage and didactic materials.  We are developing a common strategy for conveying information about what you're looking at. We'll be including information on the artist, title of the piece, and the medium for each piece.  This information has been displayed sporadically (if at all) on our existing art displays, even though we have all of this information in our databases.  My office will be producing brochures about art displays within the Legislative Building.
  • An improved collection.  A few months ago, we sent out a solicitation to major banks, law firms, and other major businesses asking if they would like to donate artwork (on a temporary or permanent basis) to the Senate, to be shared with visitors to the Legislative Building.  Several community partners have already come through with donations -- we'll be recognizing these businesses and individuals in the months to come.  In an era of downsizing, sometimes artwork just needs a new home.
  • A better organized experience for visitors.  Before, art exhibited for sale by Nevada artists and pieces in the Senate's permanent collection were commingled.  In 2013 and going forward, these areas will be separated.  My office will be developing explanatory materials -- including a web gallery -- for those who rarely (if ever) make it to the Legislative Building.
  • Better arts-related programming during Session.  We'll be augmenting the Legislative Exhibition Series (or "LXS") with new programs during Session.  Primarily geared toward legislative employees -- but open to the public -- these programs will include talk backs with artists and opportunities for Q&A.
  • Special exhibits and displays.  This is what I'm most excited about.  We have asked staff within the Legislative Building to don their thinking caps and help us display our current art collection more effectively.  I want to single out one employee, Tony Mariskanish of LCB's Buildings Unit, for special recognition here.  Tony has taken seven silk art pieces that have been hung anonymously on the second floor for twenty years, and brought those pieces together into a dramatic and beautiful new display on the second floor.  You can find Tony's display just south of the central elevator bank.  Next time you're in the Legislative Building, stop by and take a look; some long-time legislative employees have told me in recent weeks that it's their new favorite place in the building.  And best of all in these lean economic times... the display didn't cost a thing.  It was just about taking what we already had, unlocking the creativity of our staff, and delivering a celebration of the arts.  You may vaguely remember seeing these pieces before, but you won't soon forget what Tony has done with them.

The Legislative Building is a great place to work, but it will be even better when we have fully implemented this exciting initiative.  I would like to thank Susan Boskoff of the Nevada Arts Council and Peter Barton of the State of Nevada's Division of Museums and History for their advice and guidance.  I would also like to thank our partners within LCB's Facilities and Buildings units, who have embraced this initiative.

If you have artwork you would like to donate to the Senate, please call our office or drop me an email.  We look forward to welcoming you back to the Legislative Building next Spring, and sharing the good work that can be done to promote the arts without hurting our state's budget.