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2020 Fall Culture Guide

Shinoid Painting
Painting Courtesy of Shinoid

How’s your new normal coming along? *Listens and nods in glum sympathy* Well, good news: It’s just been enlivened by a roster of safe, sane, and socially distanced fall happenings that prove Las Vegas is a master at adaptation. Here you’ll find drive-by theater, radio read-alongs, YouTube opera, Zoom poetry, and in-person art exhibits with plenty of elbow room. Mask up, wash them germy mitts, and enjoy your 2020 fall culture guide.


As American As You Get

Courtesy Makita Wilbur

Sponsor Message

Sept. 23-Oct. 1/OnlineTry this for some much-needed perspective: “Earth who does not know time is patient.” That’s a line from the poem, “Let There Be No Regrets” in the forthcoming collection An American Sunrise, by  Joy Harjo,  a native of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and U.S. poet laureate. The nonprofit Poetry Promise is Zooming Harjo to Southern Nevada and, working with Clark County and the Las Vegas Jewish Film Festival, has put together a raft of online events around her appearance. The series includes a viewing of the documentary Unspoken: America’s Native American Boarding Schools, followed by a film discussion with the country’s second Native American state supreme court justice and a leading genocide scholar; a reading of selections from An American Sunrise by Harjo; and a book discussion between Harjo and author Terry Tempest Williams. (HK) free,

Visual Art

The Apocalyptic Content We Are Here for

Through Oct. 31/In-person

Late last year, in what would become a grimly prophetic discussion, artists associated with the landmark North Las Vegas gallery Left of Center began talking about the Book of Revelation. You know: The four horsemen, the *prophecy points unlocked* plagues. Now, the hoofbeats and the disease are upon us, and so is Revelations 6, the group show that grew from those talks. [Pictured right, Four Horsemen courtesy Harold Bradford] The artists involved: Dayo Adelaja, Dyron Boyd,  Harold Bradford,  Tamara Carter, Jeannie Earhart, Adolfo Gonzalez, Rita Maroun, David Murry, and Jack Wilson. It promises to be a set of vivid, unsettling visions, in the best way possible. (SD) 2207 W. Gowan Road,


Oh, Go Ahead. Make Us Miss It Even More

Ongoing / OnlineSo dedicated to the production of The Magic Flute were Opera Las Vegas artists, so disappointed by the cancellation of the in-person performance, that they produced a series of videos showcasing the talents audiences would have witnessed in person if they’d had the chance. Installments in the YouTube collection, titled The Magic Flute: What Would Have Been, range from black gown-clad soloists belting out arias alone onstage (except for their piano accompanists), to the reimagined character of Tamino in COVID-era isolation connecting with his true love through Bumble. It’s a uniquely online sampling of the cast’s creativity that works to whet the appetite for the coming live season … whenever that may be. (HK) free, (search “Opera Las Vegas”)


Sponsor Message


This Is Your Brain on Brain

Nov. 4/OnlineWe’ve come a long way in reducing the stigma surrounding mental-health issues, but myths and misconceptions die hard. Novelist and essayist
 Esmé Weijun Wang [pictured right, photo courtesy Jacquelin Tierney] takes them on with a writer’s sensitivity and researcher’s analytical eye. Her essay collection, The Collected Schizophrenias, chronicles her own diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, but also dives into the complexities and nuances of diagnosis itself, as well as the clinical, societal, and ethical dimensions of how we think about mental illness. In this live virtual event, Wang will read from her collection and discuss mental health and chronic illness in the age of COVID-19. (AK) 7p,


Visual Art

What Isn’t This Museum Doing?!

Photo Courtesy UNLV

Ongoing /In-personBig doings at UNLV’s Barrick Museum — in a supple response to both COVID-19 and the ongoing movement toward racial justice, the Barrick has reformatted its operations. Subdividing its large space into smaller exhibit areas will make more work available to more people in socially distanced circumstances, and allow the museum to focus more on local artists at a time of reduced resources. A year-long programming partnership with the Las Vegas Womxn of Color Arts Festival will highlight work we don't see enough of in galleries. Thus the festival is sponsoring Ashley Hairston Doughty: Kept to Myself,  available in the center gallery through October 9.

Sponsor Message

Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection, Photo Courtesy UNLV

This is a solo show by designer and UNLV professor Doughty uses video, illustration, fiber art, text, and more, to explore the dilemmas of being a Black woman in contemporary society. Meanwhile, with the exhibit  Excerpts,  the Barrick offers some 35 deep cuts from its various collections — recent acquisitions, pieces from the heralded  Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection, all the way back to works gathered by the Las Vegas Art Museum. “This,” according to the museum, “is the first time a single major exhibition will feature works from every area of the Barrick in dialogue with one another.” Look up the list of artists involved; count how many you’re familiar with; get excited. (Through December 18.) Yerman: Peaks and Valleys features Ryan Brunty’s Yerman the Sad Yeti, which he devised eight years ago as a way to explore his own clinical depression and advocate for mental health awareness. (Through October 9.) Being a body in a landscape — that’s the unifying idea behind Still Here Now, an eight-artist group show featuring Linda Alterwitz, Chris Bauder, Elaine Parks, Brent Sommerhauser and more. In addition, the Barrick is building out a video library. (SD)

Excerpts, the Barrick Museum, Courtesy UNLV.

Visual art

This Exhibit Is Long Overdue

Through Nov. 29/In-personLibraries are many things — research centers, gathering places, repositories of cultural memory, somewhere to play Minecraft for free. In Unshelved, UNLV Fine Art MFA candidates investigate the roles libraries play and consider imaginative possibilities in painting, drawing, sculpture, and other forms. (AK) Sahara West Library, 702-360-8000


Theater Talk

Funny You Should Ask …

Sept. 3-4/OnlineThe Utah Shakespeare Festival canned its 2020 season, but fans who can’t wait for June to start barding it up can visit the Virtual Seminar Grove for a series of play and production seminars. The final two installments are an extra-meta theater critic’s criticism of current theater criticism and an engineer’s nerd-out on lighting design. In “I’m Not Throwin’ Away My Shot” on September 3, University of Hartford professor Frank Rizzo asks what the post-Hamilton future of theater commentary will look like. Designer Donna Ruzika mixes creativity with how-to and memoir in Let There Be Light on September 4. Those two seminars can be seen on the festival’s Facebook page, and the entire suite of this summer’s seminars is available on the festival’s website. (HK) free,,



Nowhere to Go

Sept. 18-27/OnlineLas Vegas Little Theatre offers Phil Darg’s The ABCs of LGBT at the Rainbow Valley B ’n’ B for those who need some serious lockdown drama to make their own petty squabbling over who left the cap off the toothpaste seem normal. In this iteration of the genre, three couples — gay bed-and-breakfast-owners, religious conservatives, and lesbian tourists — are trapped together in a snowstorm, forcing them to confront their differences, and the shortcomings in their own relationships. (HK) $20-75,



Let’s Be Alone Together

Sept. 20Raise your hand if you’ve spent most of lockdown binge-watching Floor Is Lava while eating peanut butter for dinner. Just me? Oh. Anyway, mad credit to Black Mountain Institute for offering cerebral entertainment that courageously leans into this fraught pandemic era: In July, BMI launched Severance Radio, an on-air book club discussing Ling Ma’s satirical, dystopian novel Severance with a revolving roster of guests from diverse backgrounds and perspectives. In this episode, “On Solitude,” Desert Companion’s own Senior Staff Writer Heidi Kyser interviews CSN professor Shelley Kelley and UNLV assistant professor Natalie Pennington about what solitude means in the current moment, and what the long-term effects of solitary living amid a pandemic might be. (AK) 7p, KUNV 91.5 FM; stream live at



Can I Just Give Up? (No.) But I Want to. (No!)

Photo courtesy Samantha Irby

Dec. 2/VirtualThis is sure to be a heart-healthy session for writers, artists, and people who love writing and art, as two great essayists get at the fundamental creative question of right now: “How do we keep writing when *gestures wildly at the world*?” With the world’s dashboard blinking with so many warning lights, what good are words, stories, art? What can they even do? In “Launch Your Laptop Into the Sun,” the sagacious and funny
 Samantha Irby  (Wow, No Thank You) and the passionate and wise Megan Stielstra (The Wrong Way to Save Your Life) will help us all figure out why it’s still worth doing. I hope! Counting on you! (SD) 5p,
RSVP required,


Visual Art

The Creatures Are Coming from Inside Your Subconscious!

Through Nov. 7 / In-personAs Kd Matheson wanders the local landscape, he sometimes lets his imagination gene-splice a contemporary lizard or desert bird with a prehistoric water monster that might’ve swum the seas that once covered this land. Then, tapping into a collective subconscious, he’ll imbue that hybrid creature with a deep, mythical ... presence ... and an almost-human sentience. And that’s just one way that he comes up with the paintings, sculptures, and masks that are grouped creatively — better yet, engulfingly — in the huge exhibit Immersion/Diversion. (SD) Core Contemporary, 900 Karen Ave. #D222,


Panel Talks

Two Discussions About Race, Police, and Reform

Sept. 22, Oct. 14 / Online and in-personYou don’t need any ramp-up verbiage to convince you how important this topic is. You know. So does the Mob Museum — half of its mandate is contextualizing law enforcement, after all. Its presentation, “Race and Policing in America: A History of Conflict,” will feature local historian Claytee D. White; former Metro Assistant Sheriff Greg McCurdy; UNLV professor Tyler Parry, who teaches African American and African diaspora studies; and Gloria Browne-Marshall, a professor of constitutional law at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. They’ll track the history of policing from 19th century slave patrols through the War on Drugs, and into the 21st century. The event is sold out but will be available virtually starting at 7p. The October 14 panel is “The Push for Change: Legislative Pathways to Police Reform.” Look for Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford; policing consultant Roberto Villaseñor; Wesley Juhl of the Nevada ACLU; and Nevada Assemblyman Tom Roberts. They’ll “assess proposed and recently enacted reforms designed to overhaul police policies and practices.” Begins at 7p. Admission is free with museum admission ($16.95); it will also be available virtually. (SD) 300 Stewart Ave.,



Romance Under the StarsSept. 24-Oct. 11 / In-personPlaywright Adam Szymkowicz had enough time in COVID-19 isolation to (a) figure out indoor theater wasn’t coming back any time soon; (b) write a play about it; and (c) nail down an outdoor location where it can actually, legally be performed. (How do you feel about your three-and-a-half pages of Netflix pilot now?) Directed by Majestic Repertory Theatre’s Troy Heard, the interactive romantic comedy is quintessentially 2020 — conceived as a drive-in performance for two actors living together and titled … you guessed it … The Parking Lot. (HK) $50, The Funk Yard Parking Lot behind Majestic Repertory Theatre, 1217 S. Main Street,



Winter Is Coming, On Many Levels

Sept. 27/In-personWhat crops should you grow this winter besides the metastatic despair spreading through your soul like a creeping spectral frost? Vanessa Portillo has the answer! She’s the executive director of the Garden Farms Foundation, and she’ll discuss ideal winter crops to grow in the Vegas desert, as well as recommend plants that do well in small spaces and containers. In a touching gesture of hope for the future, free seed packs will be given to all attendees.

(AK) 2p, Centennial Hills Library, 702-507-6107



Poetic Justice

Claudia Rankine courtesy BMI

Nov. 16/OnlineIn her latest collection, Just Us, poet  Claudia Rankine  presents samples of conversations she’s had with random white male strangers, 911 call transcripts, and startling statistics to frame racism in its less visible — but no less vicious — manifestations. With The Believer poetry editor Jericho Brown, she’ll discuss race in America and the role of literature in moving this difficult but crucial conversation forward. (AK) 5p,


Visual Art

A Political Romp, Roast

Oct. 2-Nov. 3 / In-personThese next few months our lives will be thickly gooped-up with politics. So the Priscilla Fowler Fine Art Gallery is taking the bullshit by the horns. I mean, look at the lineup in A Political Romp: Diane Bush and Colleagues Roast the Election Season: Gig DePio, Sandra Camomile, Brent Holmes, Robby Martin, Krystal Ramirez, Sapira Cheuk, Jeffrey Vallance, Chad Leon Scott, Heather Protz — and plenty more. That much talent in one place just might alter Earth’s orbit. To say nothing of the fierce, impish ringleader herself, Diane Bush. The show will end with a November 2 Election Eve reception that could be a party — or a funeral. (SD) 1300 S. Main St. #110,



Return to Gilead

Oct. 2/OnlineTwo words that should have you inputting the above date on your e-calendar: Marilynne Robinson. The author of the classic novels Gilead, Home, and Lila will be talking about  Jack,  her fourth novel set in Gilead, Iowa (to be published September 29). Lovers of compelling fiction are already clearing the date. Presented by Black Mountain Institute. (SD) 5p,


Visual Art

Everyone Counts

Oct. 1-Dec. 20/In-personThe census seems like a good idea on paper: counting our people to inform the decisions we make about policies and resources. But when artist Tiffany Lin puts it on paper, the census becomes fraught with complexity: What does it mean to be counted, categorized, catalogued? Her exhibit 23 VIEWS questions the purported objectivity of the census as it relates to history, race, and immigration, in cryptic drawings that are as much a form of social practice as they are social commentary. (AK) Spring Valley Library, 702-507-3820,



Doing the Right Thing

October 15-24 / In-personLike all theater companies, the Lab LV is struggling to comply with state pandemic orders regarding live performances while continuing to exist. Its solution? An outdoor, by-appointment viewing for a limited number of guests wearing masks and sitting six feet apart. If that sounds like a lot of trouble, rest assured the show itself will be worth it. The company’s Sabrina Cofield directs Antoinette Nwandu’s Pass Over, a drama that asks its audience to consider the value of ordinary young Black men’s lives. (HK) Reservation information at 857-600-2753,


Visual Art

Fall for This Art This Fall

Oct. 6-Jan. 3/In-personOperating since 1996, the Las Vegas Artists’ Guild has long been a lively community hub for some of Vegas’ most enthusiastic and prolific artists, and its Juried Fall Show is the best event for catching up with its artists. Featuring painters, illustrators, mixed-media artists, this fall show should be a much-needed dose of color and beauty in a troubled time. (AK) West Charleston Library, 702-507-3940,



Wanna Go Clubbin’? Book Clubbin’!

Oct. 25/In-personFrom one histrionically despondent quaran-sloth who hasn’t changed his Slanket for a week to another, maybe it’s time to get off the couch and into some classic literature for a tonic dose of them eternal human verities! The Centennial Hills Library has you covered (but not with a Slanket!) with its Classic Book Club. Call ahead to find out what book they’re discussing, though ngl, it’d be funny if everyone who showed up read a different book. Itself a literary metaphor for the utterly confounding Babel of these crazy times! Why do I go there? Also takes place Nov. 22. (AK) 3p, Centennial Hills Library, 702-507-6107



Justice Takes Its Time

Sept. 30/Online and in-personThe case of Frank LaPena defies easy summary in a blurb. Convicted, on flimsy evidence, of being involved in the 1974 murder of Las Vegas socialite Hilda Krause, he spent decades in prison proclaiming his innocence. (He served more time than the plea-bargaining felon who admitted to the actual killing.) At one point, released while awaiting a retrial, he refused an offer to remain free if he’d only plead guilty. He lost the retrial. He finally got out of prison in 2005 and was fully exonerated last year. In the Mob Museum program titled “Slow Justice,” LaPena recounts his story. In-person event is free with museum admission ($16.95 for locals). (SD) 7p, 300 Stewart Ave.,



The Sights of Those Sounds

Photo Courtesy Emily Matview

Sept. 17-Nov. 17/In-personEmily Matview loves going to concerts (remember those? #hadto), but you’re more likely to find her studying good angles stageside than shouting along with the chorus. That’s because she’s a diehard concert photographer, and in this exhibit, Explosion of Silence, you’ll get a glimpse of the propulsive energy of the communal musical experience that is a live show. Pictured: local band Be Like Max. (AK) Whitney Library, 702-507-4010


Visual Art

Sea Changes

Sept. 22-Nov. 22/In-personI could go on and on about artist Shinoid’s paintings, and how they’re these oozily compelling amorphous whorls of psychedelic mystique and dynamic whimsy, but I’ll hand the mic to Shinoid’s disarmingly poetic artist’s statement, which captures both her approach and this exhibit, Ocean of Stories, so well: “I like beautiful but strange things, like the small planktons floating in the water or the filaments of mushrooms extending miles underground. I often gaze into my drifting mind to discover hidden dreams and symbols.” Exactly! (AK) East Las Vegas Library,


Visual Art

The Many Visions of Justice

Oct. 20/Online

Following the spring and summer of American discontent, the UNLV Department of Art issued a call for art submissions on the theme of #Justice. It makes sense: From George Floyd protests to trans rights; from pandemic inequality to monument topplings, many believe it’s time for the moral arc of the universe to start bending more urgently toward justice. Can art play a role? Should it? These are some of the concerns to look for when the juried exhibit goes live. (SD)


Scott Dickensheets is a Las Vegas writer and editor whose trenchant observations about local culture have graced the pages of publications nationwide.
As a longtime journalist in Southern Nevada, native Las Vegan Andrew Kiraly has served as a reporter covering topics as diverse as health, sports, politics, the gaming industry and conservation. He joined Desert Companion in 2010, where he has helped steward the magazine to become a vibrant monthly publication that has won numerous honors for its journalism, photography and design, including several Maggie Awards.
Desert Companion welcomed Heidi Kyser as staff writer in January 2014. In 2018, she was promoted to senior writer and producer, working for both DC and KNPR's State of Nevada. She produced KNPR’s first podcast, the Edward R. Murrow Regional Award-winning Native Nevada, in 2020. The following year, she returned her focus full-time to Desert Companion, becoming Deputy Editor, which meant she was next in line to take over when longtime editor Andrew Kiraly left in July 2022. In 2024, Interim CEO Favian Perez promoted Heidi to managing editor, charged with integrating the Desert Companion and State of Nevada newsroom operations.