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

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.”

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.

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.

“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.”

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

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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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