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A representation of the proposed Modern: The Modern Contemporary Museum of Art
Mayor Carolyn Goodman with gallery owner - and Modern contributor - Brett Wesley Sperry.
Brett Wesley Sperry indicates to an arts enthusiast where the Modern would be.

Las Vegas city government officials and members of the city’s art community unveiled a $29 million effort to build a modern arts museum, creativity and design laboratory and outdoor sculpture park in the heart of the Arts District near downtown.

The project would include 35,000 square feet of museum galleries, three floors, a restaurant, classrooms and event spaces, a restaurant and other amenities. Although the project will be, backers and city officials said Thursday evening, privately funded, Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Deputy City Manager Scott Adams said the city was solidly behind the effort.

Adams and Goodman said the project would catalyze more economic development downtown.

“This city is behind this…” Goodman said. “It will happen.”

But, she noted, “This is a private push.”

The project would be called the Modern Contemporary Arts Museum, or The Modern, for short.

The core of the project is slated to be on a triangular piece of now-dusty piece of land at Art Way and Charleston Boulevard, next to the Arts Factory and surrounded by some of Las Vegas’ most influential galleries, some restaurants and taverns, in the heart of the area used for the First Friday monthly cultural celebration. But it is also an area that is within the city’s designated redevelopment zone, and there are down-and-out short-term rental properties nearby. It is a neighborhood in a state of transition.

Brett Wesley Sperry, a downtown gallery owner and developer, said he will donate the land at the site free-and-clear. But the core property is, according to county records, just .56 of an acre, less than the 2 acres backers say they need.

Sperry later added that it will be necessary to consolidate other parcels nearby to come up with the needed acreage.

Julie Murray, chief executive officer of Moonridge Group, a company that advises nonprofits with fundraising and development, introduced the project and said $2.4 million has already been pledged to the effort. She said fundraising efforts are continuing and that backers could announce another major gift within the “near future,” although backers could not provide a firm timeline.

“We want to get shovels in the ground in the very near future,” Murray said.

Adams, with the city government, said the city could help with infrastructure and because it is in a designated redevelopment zone, property-tax increases would be reinvested into the neighborhood. One of the biggest issues in the near term will be parking for the project. The city owns the public right-of-way including a smallish house-sized bit at the northern tip of the triangular piece of land. The city also owns about a half-acre north of Casino Center Boulevard, across the street from the site identified Thursday night.

The Modern’s Board of Directors and a parallel advisory board read like a virtual “who’s who” of downtown developers and art-community supporters. According to Murray, the directors are Sperry, Denise Cashman, Quentin Abramo, Dr. Keith Boman, Ed Borgato, Louis Castle, Sam Cherry, Alexandra Epstein, JF Finn, Andy Schuricht, Andrea Maricich, Kelley Nyquist Goldberg and Katie Binion O’Neill.  Serving on an advisory board are Tim Bavington, Jenna Morton, Mark Brandenburg, Jonathan Jossel, Hugh Anderson, Flo Rogers, Jim Stanford, Cree Zischke and Geoffrey Beaumont.

Murray and Sperry said the Modern’s organizers will gather input from the public through a series of events. They encouraged members of the public to provide feedback. For more on the project, go to