Aaron Berger is the executive director of Las Vegas-based The Neon Museum. The nationally accredited museum works to preserve and present Las Vegas’ history through an iconic collection of vintage signs. Learn about Aaron Berger…
Hometown: Chicago, Cincinnati, Charleston and Atlanta.
First job: My first role after undergrad was serving as the Curator of Education with a small American Art Museum outside Atlanta. I managed 14,000 school kids touring the museum annually, a summer art program, and conceived and presented lecture series that expanded on the exhibitions on view. At 27, I was named the museum’s director.
Favorite ways to spend your free time in NV: My waistline will prove that I can’t avoid any of the incredible culinary offerings in town from street food to fine dining – I love it all (and welcome recommendations).
Your biggest accomplishment and why: Duck Duck Shed (www.duckduckshed.com) has been the biggest undertaking of my career. A four-day celebration of Las Vegas architecture, design and culture. In our first year alone, we’ll present three dozen individual programs, lectures, walking tours, a history by helicopter experience and a once-in-a-lifetime tour through the private home of legendary entertainers Seigfried & Roy. As Duck Duck Shed continues into future years, it allows us to make the entire city our museum. We want to welcome people from Summerlin to Singapore to discover what makes Las Vegas unlike any other in the world (for reasons you might not expect).
The biggest obstacle you overcame: Does it count if I haven’t overcome it?! Work-life balance has always been a challenge for me. I love what I do. It excites both sides of my brain – from the logical and strategic to the artistic and creative. I get inspired everywhere. Yes, there are 3 a.m. emails, countless notepads and too many texts that start off with, “what if…” Shutting that off can be tough for me.
Someone who inspires you and why: My partner, Dr. Jarred Lightner, who leads the pharmacy department for one of the largest hospitals in the county. His ability to manage a team of nearly 200 through the pandemic while maintaining his commitment to his profession is humbling. Being the yin to my yang, he has mastered work-life balance through self-care and being very family-oriented. It’s what makes him my “much better half.”
Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do: The arts and culture arena always welcomes talented, creative professionals who are going to break new boundaries and reach new audiences. We have to remember that exposure to museums is still a privilege for many. School cuts make field trips a luxury and children without that comfort in the arts grow into adults that see the arts as unneeded or nonessential when over 60 recent studies showed that children schooled with the arts as a part of their curriculum exhibited increased achievement and proficiency in math, reading, cognitive development and ultimately SAT scores. As a result, my advice to anyone entering the arts is to make sure they can speak broadly to the benefits of their mission.
Favorite quote: “The world is as you are.” Don’t know who said it, but what a fabulously true statement.
Something someone would be surprised to learn about you: My side hustle is as a glassblower (which, sadly, is nothing like bending neon). When I’m creating a piece, everything can work against you from the air temperature, gravity, speed, color, size, shape – it takes total concentration to see a finished piece come out the way you planned. And more often than not, glass breaks. It’s a great exercise in patience, creativity and how much you can sweat.
What makes someone fabulous: Anyone comfortable in their own skin.