[Downtown Las Vegas Guide]

Painting a city’s aesthetic: The street art of Downtown

Ruben Sanchez’s “Hunter S. Thompson” mural on Las Vegas Boulevard.
Photo: Mikayla Whitmore

Despite years of progress, cultural and otherwise, cries of “Las Vegas isn’t a real city” persist. But the insular and haughty would be schooled with just a casual look at a Downtown wrapped in murals and collaged by street posters, revealing a vibrant, spontaneous—and still developing—metropolis.

Nowhere is this more obvious than Fremont East, where a three-year program commissioned by the Life Is Beautiful Festival and curated by JustKids’ Charlotte Dutoit has covered Downtown’s most thriving district with large-scale murals, ranging from nods to our legacy and influence (Ruben Sanchez’s geometric “Hunter S. Thompson”) to soft-protest sentiments recasting the once-blighted area (D*Face’s pacifistic "Peacemaker").

If Fremont East’s assortment remains light on local representation, Las Vegas creatives have an urban canvas in the 18b Arts District, where spray-painted pieces brighten alleys in the south and paste-ups slow the traffic in the north, thanks to Ras One, Aware, Dray, Deep Cover and other notable residents.

Contributions surface elsewhere, from the Cultural Corridor to even the Fremont Street Experience, both early beneficiaries of the 2005 Centennial Mural Project. The area’s accelerating evolution suggests that street art might eventually dim neon’s aesthetic dominance, but we’ve arguably reached a balance—another example of Downtown’s bridging of the old and new.

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