The Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute (BMI) recently announced the lineup for the 2019 edition of the Believer Festival, a three-day roving celebration of writing, music, film, comedy, and visual arts, coming to Las Vegas April 25-27.
The growing lineup features award-winning literary writers and film directors, provocative thinkers, musicians, and comedians including poet and essayist Hanif Abdurraqib; breakout story writer Lesley Nneka Arimah; poet and activist Natalie Diaz; poet Eryn Green; novelist Lolita Hernandez; graphic storyteller Mira Jacob; co-founder of Black Lives Matter Canada Janaya Khan; Crossfade Lab curator and scholar Josh Kun; essayist and fiction writer Kiese Laymon; host and producer of The Organist podcast Andrew Leland; essayist and novelist Valeria Luiselli; breakout novelist Tommy Orange; Egyptian literary novelist and journalist Ahmed Naji; feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian; creator of Transparent, I Love Dick, and Topple production Jill Soloway; singer-songwriter Thao Nguyen (of Thao and The Get Down Stay Down and host of Song Exploder Podcast); comedian and musician Reggie Watts, and more.
The festival will also feature Las Vegas-based visual artists Justin Favela (Favyfav), best known for his piñata-style work and the podcast “Latinos Who Lunch,” and Craig Winslow, recognized for his series of projection mapped light installations around the world.
The festival’s 2019 theme is La Frontera (the frontier or border). La Frontera will probe the urgent questions of actual physical borders, and challenge and inspire the community to reconsider borders of our fixed conceptions and rigid ideas. Through collaborations with artists across art forms, the festival aims to transcend place, identity, gender, and borders physical, digital, and imaginary, while creating human connections.
With that in mind, BMI invited El Paso-Juarez border illustrator Zeke Peña to create this year's graphic rendering of La Frontera. His artwork often depicts a futuristic world or perspective shaped by environment, surroundings, and cultural mashups.
“The Believer Festival is an offering of wonder and transformation to the audience, to the community, and to the friends we welcome from out of town,” said Joshua Wolf Shenk, the artistic and executive director of BMI. The mission of the festival is to bring a community together to “divine a creative oasis.” Shenk noted that the word divine is used here as a verb meaning to ‘discover something by intuition.’
Festival partners and presenters include PEN America, the National Book Foundation, the Neon Museum, the Las Vegas Film Festival, The Mob Museum, El Cortez Hotel, The Writer’s Block, and The Lucy, a unique arts complex in downtown Las Vegas created by The Rogers Foundation. Major support for The Believer Festival is provided by the College of Liberal Arts at UNLV, BMI’s home, and by the Rogers Foundation. The presenting sponsor is the Eleanor Kagi Foundation.
The Believer, a bimonthly literature arts and culture magazine created by McSweeney’s, was brought to Las Vegas in the spring of 2017, to March 2017 by BMI, an international literary center at UNLV. The first two festivals— “Americans Dreams” in 2017 and “Desert Songs” in 2018— featured entertainers John Hodgman and Jean Grae, film director Barry Jenkins, National Book Award Finalist Tayari Jones, comedian Aparna Nancherla, novelist Luís Alberto Urrea, playwright and TV personality Wajahat Ali, Caldecott Honoree and Harvey-nominated Thi Bui, author Dave Eggers, actor-comedian Carrie Brownstein, novelist Mohsin Hamid, Metabolic Studio, the visual artist collective behind The Liminal Camera, filmmaker-artist-writer Miranda July, ZZ Packer, and many others.
About Black Mountain Institute
The Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute brings writers, and the literary imagination, into the heart of public life, through live experiences, diverse fellowships and award-winning publications, including The Believer and the literary journal Witness. BMI created the first-ever U.S. City of Asylum program, hosting writes in exile from their home countries.