Winchester Cultural Center Offers a Gem for Vegas Arts Enthusiasts

Interested in learning Mexican folklorico dance? Care to practice your Ikebana Japanese flower arranging? Perhaps you’d like to hone your poetry or drumming skills.

All of this, and so much more, is available at the Winchester Dondero Cultural Center in Las Vegas — and all for free or accessible pricing.

“People need to have a way to express and learn about themselves and their world, without having to worry about money,” says Irma Varela, program supervisor at the center. “People need art because art is a conduit for self-expression that can bring people together.”

This encapsulates the driving mission behind the Winchester Cultural Center, which has provided a comprehensive arts resource for Southern Nevadans since 1991, when the county-operated facility transitioned from a community center to a cultural center.

Offering an art gallery, classrooms and the county’s only indoor theater, the center maintains a top priority of providing wide-ranging arts education and presentations for community members of all ages.

“Winchester has always prided itself on providing cultural growth to the neighborhood and the larger Clark County area,” Varela says.

A Program for Every Interest
A whopping 25,000 Southern Nevadans participate in the center’s programs and events each year, Varela estimates. This includes its hugely popular Life in Death Festival, an annual event for the Day of the Dead.

The center’s other greatest draws include dance classes for ages 3 to 17, in styles spanning hip-hop, ballet, contemporary and Mexican folklorico. The center also offers youth theater, a drumming program for all ages, and myriad cultural workshops like Ikebana flower arrangements and embroidery.

“People come because they are interested in the arts, and as an outlet and a way to connect to people with similar interests,” Varela says.

The center also regularly features community artists in its art gallery.

Just a few include Sylvester Collier, Mary Burke King, Cara Cole and many more

“Winchester gallery has been a vital part of the limited art spaces in Las Vegas for many years before the Art District existed,” Varela says. “It is a well stablished and loved space.”

Sometimes, the center’s spotlighting of local talent even changes lives.

Varela still remembers a high school student whose artwork was awarded Best of Show at the art exhibit during its Life in Death Festival.

Taking part in the festival inspired the student to create a portfolio and apply to art school.

“The center has served as an incubator for local artists of all ages and backgrounds,” Varela says.

Showcasing the Community on Stage
Beyond presenting touring performances of national and even international artists in its theater, the center regularly presents shows featuring community performers.

This includes student groups, like the Youth Camerata Orchestra led by Oscar Carrescia.

“The most prevalent benefits are the exposure and practice,” Varela says. “A lot of the youth performers want to do theater, dance or music for a living, and the opportunity to practice on a live stage in front of a few hundred people is a chance that a majority of people do not have.”

The center further collaborates with a wide range of Southern Nevada groups, including The Jazz Society, The Asylum Theater and Sin City Opera.

“All of them have made our cultural fabric, which continues to grow and change,” Varela says.

Continuing to Grow
Much more is on the horizon for the Winchester Cultural Center, such as a facility renovation this spring that will include its theater.

The reopening event will feature a performance “by a national cultural treasure,” Varela promises.

The recent construction of new classrooms also allows for the start of multiple new classes, and Varela encourages community members to enjoy upcoming center events like a free harmonica for children on April 20 and an outdoor Hawaiian music performance on April 21.

“We are so excited for the future,” Varela says. “We are working on keeping the center a vital part of the arts and culture scene of Las Vegas.”

LEARN MORE
To learn more about the Winchester Dondero Cultural Center, click here to visit their website.

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