One of the things I appreciate most about the inaugural Life Is Beautiful festival is the lengths to which the festival organizers have gone to incorporate local talent. This October, Passion Pit will take the stage alongside Kid Meets Cougar (though probably not at the same time, or even on the same stage), and Rick Moonen will rub elbows with Jet Tila (well, not literally, because they work in kitchens and that could be dangerous, if not weirdly unsanitary). It’s just one of several ways they’ve tried to keep things interesting: Across the board, LIB’s programming is a mix of big-names and up-and-comers, showy and understated, indoor and outdoor. And happily, that applies to the recently-announced art lineup, too.
Until the arts lineup was announced earlier this week, all we knew for sure about it was that it included a whole lot of Cirque du Soliel performers. Now we know they’ll be joined by performers from Jabbawockeez, The Million Dollar Quartet, Recycled Percussion, Rock of Ages and — hooray — Absinthe. According to this here press release, they’ll appear “on (and sometimes off) the festival stages, presenting snippets of their well-known productions.” I’m kinda dying to learn what the cast of Absinthe, easily this town’s filthiest and most wonderful show, are planning to snip off and present, still wriggling, to the horror and delight of the festival crowd.
The street art program looks promising. (Though one might argue Las Vegas already has such a program in the dynamite Arts District street art gallery curated by Ras One, and they’d be right). Promised to appear are street artists Vhils (Portugal), D*Face (UK), Alexis “La Pandilla” Diaz (Puerto Rico), Interesni Kazki (Ukraine), Zio Ziegler (San Francisco), Ana Maria (Houston), The Stencil Network (New York), Bicicleta Sem Freio (Brazil) and Las Vegas’ own Aware (whose ambitious “Wheel of Misfortune”, created last summer in a defunct manganese-leaching pond in southeast Las Vegas, is pictured above). The artists are scheduled to begin their murals, stencil works and so on a week before the festival, completing them while LIB is in full swing.
The centerpiece of multimedia program is 13 Most Beautiful …Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests — four-minute silent film portraits of visitors to Warhol’s studio, featuring a live soundtrack by Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips (formerly of Luna). The press release doesn’t say where 13 Most Beautiful will be staged, and from the looks of this unique presentation, a room with good sightlines and better sound is absolutely vital. If this shows in a tent outside, I’ll be very disappointed. Here’s hoping the organizers have got something better in mind.
And the visual arts component is in good hands, namely those of Patrick Duffy, former president of the Las Vegas Art Museum and current executive board member for Smith Center for the Performing Arts. Duffy is curating The Odyssey: A Visual Art Experience, promised to be “a visual exploration of the art that inspires creativity in all of us, no matter age, education or upbringing.” That’s, er, vague, but thankfully the list of participating artists is not: Eric Tillinghast, William T. Wiley, Catherine Borg, Yasmina and Javier Sanchez, Adam Morey, Jaime Sholnick and Wendy Kveck. That list adds up to a lot of stuff that’s good for your eyes.
I imagine that more visual and multimedia artists will be added to this list as the event grows closer. (Hopefully they’re planning to add some more local talent to the bill. This is a real chance to showcase our terrific visual arts culture to a national audience.) And, y’know, Life Is Beautiful still has yet to announce who will comprise the “Learning” component, so we may be having this conversation again in a couple of weeks.
PHOTO BY RYEN MCPHERSEN