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UNLV's Barrick Museum Turns 50 Looking To Engage Community

Artist Kara Joslyn's piece will be on display as part of the exhibit Process at UNLV’s Barrick Museum of Art, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art

Artist Kara Joslyn's piece will be on display as part of the exhibit Process at UNLV’s Barrick Museum of Art, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

UNLV’s Barrick Museum of Art turns 50 this year with a new name and new leadership.

Dean Nancy Uscher of the university’s College of Fine Arts has been on the job less than a year and says her fresh eyes see value waiting to be unlocked in the museum.

“The potential it has right now to be a bridge to the community, a gathering place, a beacon for arts education has never been more exciting,” said Uscher, who had been president of Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts before coming to UNLV in mid-2016.

She plans to reach out to the Las Vegas arts and civic groups and invite them to suggest ways to better weave the Barrick into Southern Nevada's social fabric.

Uscher said the pieces are in place to create compelling programming for everyone from preschoolers to seniors, with success contingent on hard work, new thinking, and “fire in the belly.”

Getting on the community’s radar screen starts this week with a public anniversary celebration Friday evening at the museum. The museum's new name  — the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art  — will be officially unveiled at the event.

The new name adds the “of art,” reflecting the museum’s years-long redirection toward contemporary art, which includes the College of Fine Arts taking over operations in 2012.

Interim museum director Alisha Kerlin told KNPR's State of Nevada that that take over really saved the museum. Before the take over, the museum had many cultural artifacts on display, but not many works of fine art.

“Taking in the fine art collection, these very important works from the Las Vegas Art Museum and Herb and Dorothy 50 by 50 gave us a spot and a reason to collect works with connections to southern Nevada,” Kerlin said.

Kristen Peterson has been writing about the arts in Las Vegas for several years. She said the change from cultural displays to fine art has made the Barrick important to Southern Nevada.

“I think it is extremely important," she said, "Right now, it really is the only place in town where you’re going to see exhibits like you’re going to see.”

She said local art galleries provide a space to see some works of art, but the Barrick provides the only space for large collections to be housed and exhibited. Plus, institutional support for the arts community will help every one. 

Peterson said while many people in the arts community here and around the country may know of the Barrick there are locals that don't realize the kind of cultural resource it is.

“My concern is the awareness of the Barrick around the community," she said, "In the community, there is always a disconnect between what’s actually happening. There are fantastic things happening but the community is not always connected to it”

The museum has carried the name of philanthropist Marjorie Barrick since 1989. It traces its roots to 1967, when the Desert Research Institute established the museum as a place to house its collection.

Friday's event is free and open to the public. Find more information here.

Nancy Uscher, dean of the UNLV College of Fine Arts; Alisha Kerlin, Barrick Museum of Art interim director; Kristen Peterson, arts writer

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With deep experience in journalism, politics, and the nonprofit sector, news producer Doug Puppel has built strong connections statewide that benefit the Nevada Public Radio audience.