Splattered across the east side of what used to be the Western Hotel, the phrase “Viva Lost Vegas” drips of red spray paint and apocalyptic undertones. In an area undergoing extreme revitalization and constant construction, the mural is a reminder of what Downtown Las Vegas used to be: empty lots, rundown buildings, old casinos. But Las Vegas isn’t lost. In fact, it’s finding itself. And the Life is Beautiful Festival is helping do that.
The mural, painted by UK street artist D*Face, is one of many left over in downtown Las Vegas after the inaugural festival in 2013. And he’ll be back to make more, according to festival organizers, who announced the 2015 Life is Beautiful art lineup on Tuesday.
This year’s festival includes art pieces created by internationally-known street artists and an “Art Motel” devoted entirely to locals. The international lineup ranges from branding agencies (Begson) to Instagram stars (the Fat Jew), from philosophers (Jonathon Keats) to Art Basel attendees (Bikismo).
Since 2013, the Life is Beautiful Festival has aimed to breath life back into the streets of downtown Las Vegas, as part of Zappos’ founder Tony Hsieh’s “Downtown Project.” Along with food, music and learning, art, they believe, is a major component in doing so. And what better way to inspire a community then to ask the community to participate?
The list of local artists grows longer every year. 2015’s lineup includes Zappos’ own Przsm (a group of visual artists from within the company), UNLV MFA candidate Audrey Barcio, Hubo (the UNLV Robotics Lab), Blackbird Studios, Anthony Bondi, Cory Bennett, Jim Briare, Curated Las Vegas, Eden Art Studio, I.S.I. Group, Lil’ Art Bodega, Juan Muniz, Spencer Olsen, Recycled Propaganda, Sin City Gallery, The Stencil Artista, Trestleworks, Eric Vozzola and 3 Baaad Sheep.
Once again, there’s an urban core to the city, a place for locals to hang out and avoid tourists. Downtown Las Vegas has been resurrected. The phrase spraypainted on the side of the Western, which once would have seemed fitting, now creates a stark contrast against an area that includes dog parks, book and record stores, restaurants and local markets. But, hey, at least it looks cool.