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Howard Stutz

Nevadan at work: Spreading the muse: Bellagio art gallery manager points visitors to culture

26 May 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Tarissa Tiberti's family has left its mark on the Las Vegas Valley. She hopes to make her own impression in a cultural sense.

Tiberti returned to her hometown in December to serve as the manager of the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Arts. She spent the past three years in New York City as a gallery assistant for the Franklin Parrasch Gallery.

"The opportunity opened up and I saw what was happening with art in Las Vegas," Tiberti said. "I felt I could do more here than I could in New York. My goal is to keep bringing great art to Las Vegas."

Tiberti's family operates J.A. Tiberti Construction Co., which for almost 58 years has been building projects in Southern Nevada, including facilities for the Las Vegas Convention Center, McCarran International Airport, Nevada Power, the Las Vegas Valley Water District and the Clark County School District, as well as several hotel-casinos.

But the family business didn't interest Tarissa Tiberti.

She headed to the University of Colorado to pursue her love of art, particularly sculpture. She earned a master's of fine art from the Cranbrook Academy in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and eventually found her way to New York.

"Not in a million years did I think my career would bring me back here," Tiberti said. "I always thought it would be because of my family, not for work."

Tiberti's return to Las Vegas coincided with two events: the closing of the Guggenheim at The Venetian and a recent announcement that MGM Mirage plans to introduce a $40 million public arts program as part of Bellagio's neighbor, the $9.2 billion CityCenter.

Tiberti said the 2,000-square-foot Bellagio Gallery would benefit by CityCenter's commitment to public art. The works of several well-known artists will be displayed through the 76-acre mixed-use project.

Her first exhibition at the Bellagio Gallery is "American Modernism," which runs through October. The exhibition, organized by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, includes the works of Georgia O'Keeffe, Stuart Davis, Marsden Hartley, Arshile Gorky, and others.

Question: What kept you out of the family business?

Answer: I'm an artist myself and I combine a lot of building aspects in my sculpture. So, maybe through my art I've subconsciously gotten into it. My father and my brother-in-law are into architecture and my sister is an interior designer.

My parents were good about pushing us into what we wanted to do. But in a way, I build things that are construction-oriented, no matter how hard I try to stay away.

Question: Can Las Vegas become the center of the art world?

Answer: As a local, I believe we have a great opportunity as a community. People are talking about it and with CityCenter, there is a lot of opportunity for great art.

Question: What are some of the challenges of operating an art gallery inside a casino?

Answer: In today's world, casinos are not made to live just off the revenues from gaming anymore. We give people an opportunity to expand their horizons and provide culture along with the other things they have to do here.

I think a casino is an interesting place to play off of. Art isn't as straightforward as people believe it to be. It's spontaneous, it's serious, it's funny and it's everything. So putting it all in a casino makes perfect sense.

Question: How do you let tourists know about the gallery?

Answer: We use all the different media outlets. We let people know that we are showing fine art, what you might get to see if you visit a gallery in New York. We want people to know that you can come from anywhere and still see some great art in Las Vegas. We're different from any other casino.

Question: Does the size of a gallery play a role in what you can display?

Answer: We get smaller versions of shows, but with the casino, it's the perfect size. The average stay is about 30 to 45 minutes and it's up to the individual if they want to use the audio guide. People might go into the reading room and sit for a while and look at the books. We're really trying to be sensitive to what the tourists want to see.

When we change over an exhibition, we have to shut the gallery for two or three weeks. The larger galleries have multiple spaces where one can change over and another can be displayed.

Question: What type of art works best for the tourist market?

Answer: We try to keep it contemporary with what's happening now in the art world. People are interested in the new young artists going back a couple of years. Those artists are just coming into the spotlight.

Question: Is the Bellagio Gallery a place for locals?

Answer: We're reaching out to the schools. We've had some school groups and tours in here. UNLV has held some classes in the gallery after hours.

Question: Where does the Bellagio Gallery fit in with CityCenter's public arts program?

Answer: People will be able to see all those wonderful works by famous artists right there for free. If they want to see more, they could come over here. The gallery provides an intimate setting to view some wonderful works.

Question: How has Las Vegas changed?

Answer: I think Las Vegas is turning into a gorgeous city. I think people believe that art should definitely be here and part of the community.

Question: What is your favorite art museum?

Answer: The Museum of Modern Art in New York is fabulous. It has some new spaces that allow them to display even more great works.

Question: Which artists do you enjoy?

Answer: I have a lot of favorite artists. If I had to name two, one would be Dan Flavin, who does a lot of work with tubes and fluorescent light. Another would be sculptor Anish Kapoor.