Embracing a Sacred Wholeness: Virginia Dwan and The Dwan Light Sanctuary

The entire UWC-USA community was saddened this fall with news of the passing of Virginia Dwan whose vision and philanthropy have had a lasting impact on the school and the Las Vegas community. Former UWC-USA President Phil Geier, who first met Virginia Dwan and introduced her to the UWC-USA community, reflected on the ways she changed the school. Virginia, he recently shared, was a visionary whose own worldview resonated deeply with the UWC mission which led to the creation of “a space that elevates us to embrace a sacred wholeness to our otherwise splintered and chaotic world.”

While thousands of local visitors enjoy the Dwan Light Sanctuary each year, people also come from around the country and the world to experience the dancing prisms and light. Susan Dulaney, head coach of the Westminster College volleyball team brought her athletes to the Dwan Light Sanctuary earlier this year while in Las Vegas competing against the NMHU team from their home in Utah. “I always try to find something interesting and cultural for my athletes to do wherever we go. It was a quick visit but a great opportunity to see an amazing building and learn a little about a remarkable school.”

Greg Konsor, an art gallery owner and parent of a recent alumnus, reflected recently on his first impressions of the Dwan Light Sanctuary. “When you first walk in you feel a warm and inviting light. I’m amazed how the experience in the Dwan Light Sanctuary changes throughout the day even as the sun moves a little bit.” And beyond the first impressions, visitors who come to the Dwan Light Sanctuary repeatedly share that they find it more compelling upon each visit.

A gallery owner, philanthropist, and supporter of artistic innovation, Virginia Dwan’s career spanned nearly seven decades. She was a champion of “Land Art,” an artistic movement that made use of land – sometimes on a very large scale. One of the artists she supported is Charles Ross, whose Star Axis is still being built in remote New Mexico. Ross notably was also a collaborator on the Dwan Light Sanctuary that features his Prism / Solar Spectrum Artwork. Her family and friends have indicated that she was most proud of two singular accomplishments in her life: donating much of her art collection to the National Gallery of Art and the building of the Dwan Light Sanctuary.

According to Geier, the building provides countless opportunities for visitors to reflect, grow, and build community. “The Dwan Light Sanctuary provides a quiet refuge from the bewildering challenges of our time, a place where each of us can listen to our inner voices, and a space where our rational minds and imaginative hearts can flow together.” But it is in the resonance with the UWC mission that Geier feels the Dwan Light Sanctuary most supports the school and local community. An experience at the Dwan Light Sanctuary creates “a space where we can gain a glimpse of other ways of knowing and which invites communities of difference to come together seeking some common vision — a perfect synergy with the UWC mission.”

It was Virginia Dwan’s express wish that the Dwan Light Sanctuary remain open to the public. Visitors can access the building by stopping at the Welcome Center on the UWC-USA campus to get a fob for entry. It is open from dawn until dusk every day of the year.

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