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Arts barely register on drama-heavy TV news

Pop culture, minus “pop”?

Culture, aka fine arts – and a fine mess when it’s nearly nonexistent, assuming TV news is your measurement of interest.

Catching Lisa Remillard of KTNV-TV, Channel 13 interviewing Henderson Symphony Orchestra conductor Taras Krysa and pianist Tussah Heera for last weekend’s concert during the 11 a.m. news renewed frustration of seeing such stories so infrequently. They’re especially scarce on more widely watched evening newscasts. (Kudos to 13 for doing it, whatever the hour.)

Community theater, dance, classical music and visual arts suffuse this city but rarely earn coverage beyond quickie graphics announcing performance details before returning you to your regularly scheduled shootings.

Anemic arts attention? Hardly unusual nationwide but particularly unfortunate in Las Vegas, which must combat perceptions that being “Sin City” somehow precludes serious art and culture from existing here, too, as if we’re only about guilty pleasures, not artistic pleasures.

Granted, this column is penned by a reporter who also covers the arts and would appreciate increased exposure. Even with arts-writer ranks thinning amid seismic shifts rocking newspapers, print media covers arts better than TV. Why such small-screen disinterest? Let us count the demoralizing ways:

Focusing on mass viewership, TV sees the arts audience as a sliver of viewers, and the subject un-sexy on a community level, sans marquee names, with little scandal or tragedy. Grabbing TV’s attention is a struggle because arts groups have little money for advertising, unable to hire PR spin machines to stimulate media “buzz.” Perhaps the biggest obstacle: Arts embrace an abstract concept — what it means to be human – that TV news isn’t comfortable addressing. They prefer events they can document.

Still, what about just reporting terrific stories? Isn’t Signature Productions spending $100,000 this month on “Singin’ in the Rain” – with onstage “rain” that also wowed Broadway but is rarely attempted by community theater – a tale of creative guts? What about artist Karen Wheeler (profiled on today’s Neon Thursday cover), who paints despite worsening muscular dystrophy? Doesn’t Nevada Conservatory Theatre deserve notice for “The Trojan Women,” this weekend’s depiction of abuse of women in wartime, with scary parallels to news out of Libya (the Libyan woman who claimed she was gang-raped by soldiers)?

Newscasts’ crime/accident/misfortune obsessions make us feel more unsafe than we really are. Meanwhile, their disinterest in the arts suggests we’re not culturally engaged, when we actually are — or could be, if more informed about what’s hiding in plain sight in our city. Left uncovered, arts come to be perceived as, at best, tangential, and at worst, irrelevant to people’s lives (and to the politicians who control arts funding).

Weekday local programming? Five and a half hours on KSNV-TV, Channel 3. Six on KLAS-TV, Channel 8. Seven on Channel 13. Eight and a half on KVVU-TV, Channel 5. How about more culture to offset the carnage?

Take Channel 13’s ubiquitous slogan — “Making Las Vegas a Better Place to Live” — and consider that it doesn’t always have to mean righting wrongs.

It could also mean singing songs.

Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.

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