The Dam Short Film Festival: Dam Fun by Mary Kuzman

Thirty miles from the Las Vegas Strip is a three-day party known not-at-all solemnly as the Dam Short Film Festival. It is in Boulder City, an often overlooked small town that includes charm, history and some of the most entertaining short filmmakers in the world. Add to that the friendliest people working together to have a good time, and there are some compelling reasons that keep people coming back year after year.

The Dam Short Film Festival, or the Dam Short, is held in the Boulder Theater and the Boulder Hotel. The festival screens over one hundred short films with an average run time of eight minutes and recognizes the best with an award and public acclaim. There are no cash prizes, just recognition and a statuette reminiscent of art deco angels.

The Dam Short is a community builder in two important ways: it promotes individual involvement with other like-minded neighbors with more active— and less costly— entertainment and showcases the local creative community. Las Vegans are aware that the city and its environs have a close friendship with having a good time but little acquaintance with community events. The Dam Short combines the two. The fact that the entries are international and many have received awards in other film festivals only serves to highlight the Dam Short as an interesting cultural event amply suited to the Las Vegas temperament. The mechanics involved in showing over a hundred films in three days are a combination of a lot of work and dozens of volunteers who work all year to hold a successful festival. They come from all over the Vegas valley because they are drawn by the promise of a good party and by the infusion of creative effort that the film festival engenders.

Lee Lanier, an award-winning animator, and his wife, Anita, along with a local videographer and a local shop owner founded the host organization, the Dam Short Film Society, in 2003. This February’s celebration was the eighth. When it began, the festival’s mission was to promote an interest in short films, and that has not changed. The festival is non-profit and funded by contributions, a grant from the Nevada Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts. The Dam Short has also attracted sponsors such as KNPR, the local National Public Radio affiliate, Cirque du Soleil, and the Nevada Film Office. 

The most appealing concept of the Dam Short is that the audience votes for the best in each category instead of a panel of judges. This works remarkably well and not only increases the audience’s involvement but gives each audience member a feeling of importance that other festivals fail to impart—an excellent finale for both audience and artist. It appears that this year’s audience took the task seriously. Though there is a category specifically for Nevada residents, quality submissions come from all over the world. There were entries from Germany, Taiwan, Brazil, Belgium, the UK, Spain, Cuba and Israel, but this year, the best documentary was from Australia.

The criteria for submissions to the Dam Short are not rigid; any genre or subject is accepted. The film must be no longer than forty minutes, and if there is a significant amount of dialogue in a foreign language, it must be subtitled in English. The categories are Drama, Documentary, Animation, Sci-Fi / Horror, Comedy, Nevada Filmmaker, Student and Audience Favorite. Next year’s dates have already been set, February 6-9, 2013, though it is not yet open for submissions. There are no restrictions on when the film was made. If participants enter a film in either the student category or the Nevada resident category, they must be prepared to furnish proof. If the filmmaker is no longer a student or a resident of Nevada, a film made during either of those time periods can still be entered, providing there is proof of residency.

Apart from screening and voting for the short films, the festival offers other sources of entertainment including mixers, filmmaker panels and an after party in the charming setting of Boulder City.There is even a picture contest that lets visitors take all the Dam Short pictures they want and get a chance to win all-access passes to the 2013 Festival. Someone interested in the festival can get a one, two, three or four-day pass or a pass to a single event. Admissions are extremely flexible, moderately priced and the proceeds are put right back into future festivals.

The Dam Short is not as electrifying as the Vegas Strip or as prestigious as Sundance, but it has grown each year and remains an excellent way to meet some very creative and interesting people, spend the weekend in a charming less crowded location, inhale less second-hand smoke, and see some good, short films for a lot less money than than anywhere else.


Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art: A Hidden Cultural Gem

By Christie Lewis

Fountains at Bellagio

The Bellagio is most known for its dazzling fountains that combine bursts of water choreographed to a variety of music, but there is more to theBellagio. It is full of incredible pieces of art including the 2,000 piece, hand-blown, glass blossom chandelier by Dale Chihuly. The conservatory and gardens found just beyond the lobby change five times a year and feature spectacular florals from around the world. The Picasso Restaurant surrounds diners with pieces of original Picasso artwork. The pinnacle of culture within the casino, however, is the Gallery of Fine Art, which features displays of visiting artwork.

Las Vegas locals often criticize their city for its lack of culture. It may not have a Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art or a Smithsonian, but theBellagio allows locals and tourists access to celebrated artists and well-known works of art.  The gallery, though small, could be a great introduction to art or, for those with more experience, a short escape into art when the Getty Museum in Los Angeles is too far away.

Past exhibits at the gallery have included works by Andy Warhol and Faberge.  The current exhibit at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art (BGFA) is “Claude Monet: Impressions of Light.”  Working in cooperation with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), the Bellagio opened “Claude Monet: Impressions of Light” opened February 18, 2012. It features twenty works by Claude Monet, one of the founders of French impressionism. Outside of Paris, the MFA has one of the largest collections of Monet’s paintings, which they have graciously loaned BGFA until January 6, 2013.  The exhibit spans forty years and, in addition to the pieces of Monet, contains eight canvases by his predecessors and contemporaries, including Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Camille Pisarro and Eugene Louis Boudin.

With encouragement from Boudin, Monet originally gave up sketching caricatures and turned to painting outdoors.  He was fascinated by the changes in light, both daily and seasonally.  He began painting a series where he would work for a few minutes on a painting, and as the light would change, he would change canvases.  One of the pieces from his most popular series of compositions, Haystacks, is currently on display at the BGFA.

Impressionist painters rejected the traditional conventions of their time and decided to exhibit painted sketch-like “impressions” as finished works.  Paintings by impressionists have texture.  They are not smooth and polished.  The viewer can see every color and every stroke carefully placed by the artist, and this is exactly the kind of art displayed in the gallery.

I have lived in Las Vegas now for six years, and this was my first trip to the gallery. As someone who has loved art and Monet since childhood, I enjoyed my trip. From the moment I walked in, there was a feeling of calm that is traditionally encountered in other, larger, art museums. I will never tire of seeing the artwork. They provide a quick cultural escape from the hustle and bustle of the Strip and the rest of the city that I will always appreciate.

Attractions. (2012) Retrieved February 29, 2012 from Bellagio Las Vegas website:

Claude Monet: Impressions of Light. (2012). Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art. [Brochure]

“Claude Monet: Impressions of Light.” Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art. Las Vegas, NV, USA. February 20, 2012.
Guest Services Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art. (Email March 2, 2012).

“Culture-Less?” A Review on the Southern Museum of Fine Art

The city of Las Vegas is filled with ironies. Despite its glitz and glamour, it is considered to be a cultureless wasteland: all flash and no tact. While Las Vegas may have a variety of shows on the Strip that are hard to find elsewhere, Some might think that while Las Vegas has a variety of shows that are hard to find elsewhere, there are not as many things that one might call cultured or sophisticated, but this is not true.
Las Vegas is not without its appreciation for the fine arts. There is a large community of artists within the city who wish to show their creations to the world, and many of their works can be found within the Southern Nevada Museum of Fine Art. A non-profit organization founded in 2003, the museum dedicates itself to providing visitors a wide range of works from living artists throughout Nevada and the world at large. People who are curious about what the artists of our time are creating will find a lot to appreciate here.

Admissions are only $3 per person or $2 per child. Visitors will find within the museum’s walls a 20,000 square foot exhibit and gallery with dozens of paintings as well as a variety of sculptures. Many are quite beautiful while some are quite grotesque (though perhaps no less sublime). Because the genres vary, visitors will find pictures of beautiful landscapes, people from many different cultural settings, animals roaming through their natural habitat or colorful swirls moving in different directions. As visitors enter the main gallery, a feeling of modernity will soon strike them as they look upon portraits of the Mona Lisa and Rembrandt while holding Starbucks coffee in styrofoam cups.

One picture that stands out is Ghost Horse 3 (pictured below) by artist Susan Strauss. The horse in the painting appears literally as a free spirit, wandering the wilderness at will and not bound by society’s restrictions.

Ghost Horse 3 by Susan Obermeyer Strauss in Colorado

Another painting that quickly catches the attention is Vital Force by Selena Valenti who lives and works in Nevada. A surrealist image that seems pretty grotesque at first combines vital organs of the human body with growing plant life. For example, a human spine drawn as a plant’s stem grows from entrail roots and sprouts bloodied tissue from a human heart like petals.

Vital Force by Selena Valenti in Nevada

The halls are long and easy to get lost in. The themes throughout the gallery are endless, and all of the artwork comes from living artists. The art museum is a museum as well as a shop. Many of the works are actually for sale and cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

As a cultural haven that makes art accessible to citizens and tourists alike, the city has
become an important setting for many within the international artistic community. As a lifelong
citizen of Las Vegas who has seen the city from inside out, I know that we are not the neon-littered cultureless wasteland which many outsiders perceive it to be. Behind the materialistic front on which our economy runs is a vibrant heart and soul in which a talented community strives to find its place among the great artists of the world. The Southern Nevada Museum of Fine Art will take you behind the cultureless façade and show visitors what our city really has to offer.

Best Five Examples of Cuban Culture in Las Vegas by

According to the 2010 Census, the hispanic community accounted for 31.5% of the Las Vegas population. Cubans are part of this percentage and have an interesting culture to offer to the Las Vegas community. Cuban culture is a complex mixture of different influences, which include art, cuisine, literature, music, politics and religion.Some aspects of Cuban culture, especially salsa music, can be easily recognized around the world. Cuban culture is unique because it offers a tropical, festive and expressive way of life. Currently, there is an exciting selection of Cuban culture offered in Las Vegas. Las Vegas offers Cuban food, party entertainers and salsa dancing nights. Here are five different options that give you a taste of Cuban culture. Enjoy!

1. Florida Café Cuban Bar and Grill

Florida Café Cuban Bar and Grill is best known for its Cuban buffet. Cuban food is comprised of various dishes with rice and beans as the staple side dishes. The Florida Café Cuban Bar and Grill offers dishes and family recipes, which include menu items such as Arroz Con Pollo, Bistec Empanizado, and Platano Maduros and of course rice and beans.

2. Cuban Master Cigar Roller- Cesar Ramirez

Cesar Ramirez is a personal Cuban master cigar roller who is available for events in Las Vegas. Because Cuba has such a great quality of tobacco, there are many different types of cigars that are produced such as Cohibas, Partagas, Montecristos, and Cuaba Tradicionales. These cigars vary in taste. Some cigars have hints of leather, citrus or chocolate. Cesar Ramirez has a premium selection of cigars and is available for events such as wedding, banquets, dinner, private parties, corporate events, meetings, conferences, conventions, lectures and stage performances.

3. Club Rio’s Salsa Dancing Night

Dancing is vital to Cuban culture. There are many different dances, which include salsa, conga, bolero, merengue and mambo. Club Rio offers a great selection of Cuban music for salsa dancing on Sunday nights. Club Rio is an upscale club, so their dress code is stricter. Most male guests wear a guayabera (a popular Cuban men’s shirt) and slacks. Female guests usually wear a nice dress or skirt. The environment in Club Rio on the dance floor is festive and alive.

4. Roly’s Bakery

Roly’s Bakery is a new bakery that offers a variety of delicious Cuban bakery items such as cakes, bread, pastries, sandwiches, tamales, pizza and coffee. Roly’s Bakery also has a fantastic Cuban flan, which is a popular pudding-based dessert made of sugar, evaporated milk, condensed milk, egg yolks, eggs, cream cheese and vanilla extract. Roly’s Bakery also makes custom order cakes for all occasions.

5. Salsa Blanca is a website created by UNLV professor Jon Griffin. Jon Griffin has an interesting story as he is a professor for the Food and Beverage department, and teaches primarily about beer. Griffin is fascinated by the Cuban culture, specifically music. Griffin also owns a home in Cuba. Griffin created to enlighten the public about Cuban music styles such as Afro-Cuban music, rumba, danzon, and punto.

Springs Preserve Review by Jenna Yocum

In June of 2007, the Springs Preserve, a tiny oasis in the center of Las Vegas, opened with one of the “greenest” buildings in the nation. It supports the environmental movement and educates children and adults about it. While many might think they would have to drive to Red Rock Canyon for nature and hiking, the Preserve offers all of those things and more.

The tour begins with the Origen Museum, a place with extraordinary exhibits on water conservation, sustainability and animals. While the exhibits seem to be geared toward children, it is still extremely educational for adults who may gain something more from the material. One of the most interesting exhibits is a flash flood demonstration where 5,000 gallons of water are used (and recycled) to show the dangerous effects of flash floods on the valley. Everyone can enjoy the animal habitats located outside of the museum with locations for lizards, a gray fox, gila monsters and an ant colony, which only serve to enhance the educational experience.

The Springs Preserve also offers activities for all ages. Children can engage in hands-on activities specifically designed for them. There is an especially fun one where they build mountains and plateaus with mud and release streams of water to simulate erosion. There is also an exhibit for the elderly and people with disabilities that shows how to garden with physical difficulties. The activities provide real-world applications for the environmental exhibits.  

The Springs Preserve has a large effect on our community as a whole by being an example of an environmentally-friendly building and also by educating the public on issues such as water conservation, which is so vitally important to the drought-prone Las Vegas valley. It brings people together and helps everyone in our community realize the importance of being environmentally friendly while giving people the knowledge to do so.

The Preserve gives Las Vegans a place to learn and get away from all of the traffic, noise and exhaust fumes. Aside from Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas does not have too many spots for fresh air and nature, so visitors should take full advantage. Whether they are looking for somewhere to spend time with their kids, learn something about the environment, or just looking to rent a bike and ride through the trails, the Springs Preserve is a great little hidden treasure right in the middle of Las Vegas. With an endless age demographic, the Springs Preserve really is for everyone.