The Smith Center at Six Months

Six months after its opening, Las Vegas is taking the pulse of its new The Smith Center for the Performing Arts and the reviews suggest it’s become a star – not only of a PBS production that airs this week, but of the community that turned to us to design a cultural magnet for the people of Nevada.

Much of Las Vegas is designed as an escape from somewhere else. The Smith Center is conceived to embody the soul of Las Vegas – not the fantasy-scape that people visit – but the place where people live and work. The opening night celebrations, and the resurgence in the surrounding business and cultural activities that have followed, speak to the power of architecture to focus, revitalize, and enrich our communities in virtually immeasurable ways.

The Smith Center for the Performing Arts opened in March to fulfill the longstanding dream held by the greater Southwest region to engage and unite the entire community, to enable other organizations to grow artistically and institutionally, and to serve as an incubator for new artistic endeavor and excellence.  After six months, this$470 million,world-class, state-of-the-art, acoustically superior performing arts center seems to have attracted not only a significant turnout for performances, but is becoming an ignition switch for local cultural enjoyment, education and business. With an average turnout of 2,000 on performance nights, the Smith Center has infused downtown businesses with a steady increase in patrons, realizing one of its ambitions to become a driving force for the local economy.   In May,the Las Vegas Review-Journal noted that restaurants in the Smith Center’s immediate vicinity were seeing “significant increases in dinner business,” with one restaurant reporting ten times as much business as on non-show days.

The entire nation has a chance to share the excitement surrounding the Smith Center’s opening night with a PBS special that airs tonight (September 21 at 9 p.m. ET/PT).  What Smith Center president and CEO Myron Martin calls a “historic night” features legendary performers from Carole King and Merle Haggard to Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson and trumpeter Arturo Sandoval.  The television event “Dust to Dreams” is produced by George Stevens Jr. and directed and produced by Michael Stevens, who collectively have won 19 Emmy Awards.  It will be hosted by Emmy Award-winning actor Neil Patrick Harris and includes additional performances by country superstars Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris and Martina McBride, classical violinist Joshua Bell, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member John Fogerty, Gospel great Mavis Staples, Train lead singer Pat Monahan, and American Ballet Theater dancers Marcello Gomes and Luciana Paris.

The success of The Smith Center comes not just from the stellar programming of artistic performances and educational offerings, but also from the carefully crafted architectural program that promotes an urban pedestrian environment, and incorporates art, iconography and ornamentation on both the exterior and interior that creates a place that feels as though it sprang from Las Vegas rather than somewhere else.

Select accolades for The Smith Center:

The acoustics are terrific. Franz [Welser-Most] and I both feel it’s the best new hall in the country in a long, long time… It’s a GREAT hall.”  — Gary Hanson, Executive Director of the Cleveland Orchestra

“The Smith Center is a triumph. It is beautiful, inside and out. It is architecture at the top of its game.”  — David Brussat, Providence Journal

“The Smith Center is a superb new arts facility that brings a strong cultural voice to Las Vegas.”  — Michael Kaiser, President of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, for Huffington Post

“The Smith Center is nothing short of a huge smash. It has become an essential part of our community in just a few months, almost as if it had been here for many generations. [DMSAS] should be proud of your work on this historic project.”  — Alan Feldman, SVP Public Affairs for MGM Resorts International and member of The Smith Center Board of Directors

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