Our annual fall culture guide is special. Not just due to its (obvs!) standard-issue specialness of serving as an indispensable treasure map to this season’s best offerings in art, music, theater, dance and more. But could I be indulged a moment of such sweet naivete as to think it might, I dunno, offer a spiritual antidote at this curious socio-emotional historic downstroke we find ourselves in, when a hyperpartisan election cycle + a troll-ocratic Internet  = collective melting-skull banshee-shrieking all up in each other’s faces 24/7? I’m not proposing culture as mere escape, but as access to a different modality altogether, one we’ve perhaps forgotten in a political season that’s sent everyone scurrying for their spiky redoubts stocked with pet facts, politicized certainties, outrages, pieties: a realm that partakes instead of uncertainty, ambiguity, curiosity and even wonder. Remember how fun it is not to know the answer, and how liberating it can be not to have to have an answer? The arts are the place where those quaint traits of the demos still live, I suspect, in some trace microbial form, where open minds and those of a decidedly public spirit consider and even court perspectives other than their own. To take the magniloquence down a notch, our fall culture guide (p. 58) also features some simply amaaaaaazing art, music, theater and more — plus our annual showcase of “Ones to Watch” on the scene, featuring poet Lila Brissette, actor Darren Weller, filmmaker Brett Levner and artist Christopher Jones.

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This year, we didn’t stop there. We really wanted to give our music scene a proper due. To be sure, Vegas’ neck tattoo reads “Entertainment Capital of the World,” but we’ve got much more to offer than marquee names doing the residency thing on various Strip stages. In “The beat goes on” (p. 51), we charged ourselves with capturing a snapshot of the diversity of musical expression sounding off in the valley, and, happily, we didn’t have to look hard or far. We discovered Arabic ensembles making beautiful polyrhythmic music and promoting tolerance; seasoned jazz legends firing up second-act reboots; funk collectives putting Vegas on the national map; and gut-bucket blues slingers grinding it out on the bar circuit. Our fall fashion feature on p. 72, too, is a visual high-five to the music scene’s teeming ecosystem of arenas, clubs and dives.

And if culture is ultimately about the care and feeding of those relationships beyond our immediate tribe — our relationships to society, the land, each other, this issue’s theme resonates beyond the feature well. In “The art of the state” (p. 36), critic Danielle Kelly considers a Reno art exhibit, eventually slated for Las Vegas, that showcases artists from both cities who examine their frequently complicated sense of Nevada. In this light, Heidi Kyser’s All Things lead story, “Bonding on the beat” (p. 19), too, expresses this theme. Amid recent national headlines of both police violence and violence against the police, it’s encouraging to be able to say that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is making meaningful strides in its own relations with the valley’s African American and Muslim communities. As Heidi observes, building such relationships is a delicate and painstaking process fraught with uncertainty. But, given where certainty seems to have gotten us, I’ll gladly take a chance on the promise of the unknown.

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