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Buildings become canvases in Las Vegas' explosion of murals by Shepard Fairey, D*Face and others

Buildings become canvases in Las Vegas' explosion of murals by Shepard Fairey, D*Face and others
On a scaffold high above downtown Las Vegas, British muralist D*Face and artists from JustKids put the finishing touches on “Behind Closed Doors,” a mural on the north tower of the Plaza Hotel & Casino. (JustKids)

Message to graffiti artists and taggers in downtown Las Vegas: It may be time to move on. You're being upstaged by the pros.

The artists are from JustKids, but there's nothing childish about the murals they are bringing to the center of the city. The organization's website says it's "a network of curators, artists, designers and art consultants" that is "dedicated to spread art all over the world."

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Artist D*Face created and painted the design that covers a wall of the Plaza Hotel & Casino. It was completed in early February by a JustKids team.
Artist D*Face created and painted the design that covers a wall of the Plaza Hotel & Casino. It was completed in early February by a JustKids team. (JustKids)

JustKids' two latest efforts, on the exterior of the north tower of the Plaza Hotel & Casino, are also the organization's biggest. A comic book-style theme prevails in "Behind Closed Doors," a work by  British artist D*Face.

"The scale of this, when you stand underneath it, is just amazing," Jonathan Jossel, the hotel's CEO, said as he peered up from the fifth floor pool deck.

On the opposite side of the building, street artist Shepard Fairey recently completed a work called "Cultivate Harmony," which stretches across the tower's 21 stories.

With a message of peace on the planet, “Cultivate Harmony” is a mural spanning 21 floors of the Plaza’s north-facing wall along Main Street. Artist Shepard Fairey designed it, a team of painters from JustKids made it happen.
With a message of peace on the planet, “Cultivate Harmony” is a mural spanning 21 floors of the Plaza’s north-facing wall along Main Street. Artist Shepard Fairey designed it, a team of painters from JustKids made it happen. (JustKids)

In a statement, Fairey said the giant mural is intended to "remind people that peace and harmony with each other and the planet itself are the only way to maintain what sustains us."

Jossel said the new works of art are part of the Life Is Beautiful festival's campaign to bring more culture to downtown.

Bikismo, a Puerto Rican muralist, uses only spray paint to create detailed works of art that can be viewed across the globe, from Jerusalem to Japan. This mural is in the 500 block of Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas.
Bikismo, a Puerto Rican muralist, uses only spray paint to create detailed works of art that can be viewed across the globe, from Jerusalem to Japan. This mural is in the 500 block of Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas. (Anika Dacic)

"We're all, as property owners, interested in improving downtown Las Vegas as a whole, making it a tourist destination, and also a place where people can want to live, work and play," he said.

"If you look at areas like Wynwood in Miami, street art basically was the catalyst for the entire generation of that area," he added. "I can see that happening downtown [in Las Vegas], very much."

Pixel Pancho, a street artist from Turin, Italy, specializes in large wall murals, many of which feature a vintage robot. This work is at the corner of 7th and Fremont streets downtown.
Pixel Pancho, a street artist from Turin, Italy, specializes in large wall murals, many of which feature a vintage robot. This work is at the corner of 7th and Fremont streets downtown. (Zorn Photography)

In recent years, Life Is Beautiful has worked with artists from around the world to revitalize downtown through urban art.

Norwegian artist Martin Whatson’s untitled mural covers two walls of a building on Stewart Street between 7th and 8th streets in Las Vegas. His mission is to bring beauty to forgotten spaces.
Norwegian artist Martin Whatson’s untitled mural covers two walls of a building on Stewart Street between 7th and 8th streets in Las Vegas. His mission is to bring beauty to forgotten spaces. (Insomniac Photography)

The creative minds, and hands, have come to Las Vegas from such far-flung places as Norway, Portugal and Puerto Rico. Life Is Beautiful commissions new works each year.

Ana Maria Ortiz’s beautiful painting adorns the side of a building at 7th and Ogden Avenue in downtown Las Vegas. Now a Houston-based artist, her career blossomed from her early attempts at street art in her native Puerto Rico.
Ana Maria Ortiz’s beautiful painting adorns the side of a building at 7th and Ogden Avenue in downtown Las Vegas. Now a Houston-based artist, her career blossomed from her early attempts at street art in her native Puerto Rico. (Donna Haden)

While the murals are created to coincide with the annual festival each September, they are lasting reminders of Life Is Beautiful's efforts to beautify Las Vegas' urban core.

Head to 7th Street between Stewart and Ogden avenues to view Felipe Pantone’s mural, created for the 2016 Life Is Beautiful festival. The Argentine native, now based in Spain, incorporates bold graphics into his work.
Head to 7th Street between Stewart and Ogden avenues to view Felipe Pantone’s mural, created for the 2016 Life Is Beautiful festival. The Argentine native, now based in Spain, incorporates bold graphics into his work. (Anthony Nguyen)

The beautification program continues to be managed by Charlotte Dutoit of JustKids. The group's website says "the popular street art program … has left an indelible mark on the canvas of the city."

Portuguese street artist Vhils is known for his oversized portraits. This one covers a wall of the parking garage at the El Cortez hotel-casino. It can be viewed along 7th Street.
Portuguese street artist Vhils is known for his oversized portraits. This one covers a wall of the parking garage at the El Cortez hotel-casino. It can be viewed along 7th Street. (Zorn Photography)

It's hard to walk or drive even a block through the Fremont East Entertainment District, the area east of Las Vegas Boulevard, without seeing a mural. And the movement is spreading.

Look for the mural called “Wall of Understanding” on the site of the Rogers Foundation’s building at 9th Street and Garces. It urges people to be accepting of all those who live in the U.S.
Look for the mural called “Wall of Understanding” on the site of the Rogers Foundation’s building at 9th Street and Garces. It urges people to be accepting of all those who live in the U.S. (The Rogers Foundation)

In mid-January, the Rogers Foundation unveiled what it calls the "Wall of Understanding" mural. Covering the entire east wall of the foundation's headquarters at 701 S. 9th St., the painting carries a message in support of civil rights for all those living in America.

The work by Brooklyn-based artist Michael Dodson, according to a news release, is intended to "encourage forward-looking understanding and acceptance."

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