September 14, 2022 - 7:51 am
Updated September 29, 2022 - 6:53 am
Mural admirers don’t need a defined path to get the most from a near decade of creativity left behind by the annual Life is Beautiful music festival in downtown Las Vegas.
Just get to DTLV with an appetite to wander.
Pick a restaurant for dinner and find a Fremont East parking spot an hour beforehand. Spend your time meandering among murals before margaritas and tacos at La Comida or sangria and shrimp at Carson Kitchen.
Wait for cooler weeks to prevail and go on a mural strut after curry lunch at Le Thai.
Take time to figure out the Regional Transportation Commission’s bike sharing program and arrive the next morning at the corner of Seventh and Fremont streets to pedal through the mural scene before stopping for sugary goodness at the Donut Bar.
All are respectable options for getting acquainted with vibrant, eclectic, whimsical and thought-provoking street art with global influences. The murals are worth the wander.
The intersection of Fremont and Seventh streets is a mural hub of sorts, with Italian artist Pixel Pancho’s poignant robot love story from 2015’s Life is Beautiful and Vegas-showgirl-themed “Fear No Fate,” created by Tristan Eaton, brightening both sides of a corner of the El Cortez’s parking garage. Look over your shoulder to find the crazy, music-playing cool cats of Brazilian duo Bicicleta Sem Freio.
Heading north on Seventh, trekkers are treated to a Life is Beautiful original from 2013 on a turquoise, five-story background; D*Face’s “I gave her my heart, and she left me for …” holds its place at 222 N. Seventh St. And there’s so much more along this road, including a mural with a bright blue bird holding a key in its beak and a turtle wearing windows on its back at the southwest corner of Stewart Avenue and Seventh Street. Bold and beautiful, “Black Girl Magic” is right across Seventh Street from there.
The bulk of downtown Las Vegas’ murals are a result of creative curating by the JustKids organization in coordination with Life is Beautiful. While the music and culture festival is only around this Friday through Sunday, the murals stay behind for limitless free gawking.
Generally, some of the splashiest downtown murals are found in a zone bound by Sixth and Ninth streets and Stewart and Carson avenues. Wander around by foot or on a bike through those streets, alleys and parking lots to wonder about what inspired the murals and to admire the artists’ talent. Follow your interests and likes while styling your self-paced street art adventure in an area where art’s hard to avoid. There’s also a second mural-rich, urban gallery stretching for blocks in the nearby Arts District, and that’s worth a separate trip.
In the Fremont East corridor, a few murals that shouldn’t be missed include “Vegas Moths” by French artist Mantra on the northeast facade of downtown’s Fremont9 residential building, which also features three fun panels along the building’s front. A tough-guy chicken and a handsome owl command attention in a Shay Davis mural at 110 N. Eighth St. Street artist ROA’s enormous horned lizard, complete with blood squirting out of its eye, is located at 301 N. Sixth St. Italian artist Agostino Iacurci’s vibrant arched doorways, trees and columns stand in a mural stretching along Seventh Street between Fremont Street and Ogden Avenue. Towering above Carson Avenue west of Sixth Street is “The Sleeping Knight” by Polish street artist Bezt/Etam Cru. Nearby is Art Alley, which meanders from an alley off Carson Avenue toward a parking lot off Sixth Street just south of Fremont Street.
Most visitors will navigate DTLV’s open-air gallery by walking the streets, but the art scene can also be seen by bicycle.
On a Friday evening in late August, I went on the Regional Transportation Commission’s website to create an account and purchase a one-day $5 Dasher Pass for the following morning. That Bike Share pass allows riders 24-hour access to undock bikes at stations throughout downtown. With my phone number or an app on my phone, I would be able to borrow an RTC bike for 30-minute intervals throughout the day because I had purchased the pass. Thirty minutes go by quickly when you’re hunting for funky large-scale wall art, so it was a small-scale disappointment to have to undock and dock a bike multiple times to avoid extra charges. But I was grateful I didn’t have to haul my own bike downtown. Also, there was initial cursing as I tried to use my phone to undock the bike for the first time, but ultimately the experiment was a success.
Fremont Street wasn’t a traffic mess at 8 a.m. on a Saturday, so going on a spin for street art discovery was comfortable from a safety perspective. Wide and bright green bike lanes are part of the downtown scene. Bikes allow for more geography to be covered on a self-guided mural tour.
Whether strolling or taking a spin on a borrowed bike, mural admirers will get their fill of creative color and design aimed at making the public smile and think on the streets of downtown Las Vegas.