It’s hard to believe that only a decade ago Downtown Las Vegas was just another snapshot of what it is today – a mournful reminder of the glory days that adorned the center of the city. And now with all of the thriving business, influencers using the scenery as poetic backdrops, art sight-seeing tours on every block, and sprawling murals full of color adorning almost every square-inch of previously gray and dull concrete canvases, you would’ve hardly realized the massive revitalization that has taken place.
In just 10 short years, Downtown Las Vegas has transformed into an ever-evolving, massive open-art gallery. Our streets have housed art by up-and-coming artists just starting to make a name for themselves and global muralists who have led the same transformations across hundreds of cities. Time and time again these murals have awed and captivated hundreds of thousands, and many have since become iconic pieces of the downtown landscape, regardless of their standing. Join us as we dive into some of our favorite murals that have graced both Life is Beautiful and the urban landscape.
Smile King Bear and Rest Of The Three Graces (2017) by Okuda San Miguel
Nothing has been more iconic to Life is Beautiful’s artistic identity than Smile King Bear and Rest of the Three Graces by Okuda San Miguel. For more than 5 years, San Miguel’s mural provided a transformative effect on the urban landscape, delivering commanding attention through its vivid colors and distinctive style. Known for his vibrant geometric patterns and intricate designs, the mural and installation stood as a testament to the artist’s unique vision and artistic prowess, captivating fans’ imaginations and transporting them to another world year-after-year.
While the Rest of Three Graces was unfortunately painted over in 2021 and subsequently demolished, Smile King Bear still stands tall at 16 feet and can be found at Wynn Las Vegas Resort just minutes from the original location it stood in 2017.
Rise Above (2013) by Vhils
Unlike the other murals on this list, Rise Above by Vhils stands apart on its own. Vhils doesn’t use a traditional method of paint and a paint brush to create his works. Portuguese artist Alexandre Farto, uses the unconventional techniques of methodically chiseling, drilling, and blasting walls and facades to expose different layers beneath the urban surface. Even more poetic for Life is Beautiful, the unique style of Vhils creates by destroying, uncovering the historic past of the East Downtown Las Vegas along the way. The Rise Above “mural”, painted in 2013, even makes an ode to Las Vegas’ past and the Fremont Hotel & Casino, located just blocks from where the mural stood.
Over time, the mural fell into despair and the building was eventually demolished by the city. However, Vhils contribution to the Downtown Las Vegas landscape is a fitting one. Rise Above was a reminder that there can sometimes be beauty even in destruction and the uniqueness of the mural is one we’ll never forget.
3Dimensional (2016) by Felipe Pantone
On the east side wall of the Vhils mural was something that was totally ELECTRIC, but it didn’t start out that way. 3Dimensional was painted in 2016 by Argentine-Spanish artist Felipe Patone, featuring a composition of bold lines, geometric shapes, and intense color gradients, creating kinetic patterns and optical illusions that had the ability to transport viewers to almost another dimension.
In 2017, the mural received an upgrade. In collaboration with the Young Electric Sign Company (YESCO), the company famously known for producing the most iconic neon signs in Las Vegas, Felipe Pantone’s mural was embellished with solar-powered neon, serving as an iconic backdrop for the Life is Beautiful landscape for several years.
Corporate Welfare (2016) by Shepard Fairey
No one artist’s style (except maybe Banksy, who also once had an installation at the festival too) has been more iconic to grace the streets of Downtown Las Vegas than perhaps that of Shepard Fairey. The man most famously known for his 2008 Barack Obama “Hope” poster and his OBEY clothing line, painted Corporate Welfare during a pivotal election year in 2016 to promote activism against corporate subsidy, encouraging us to “Be a Maker! Not a Taker!”.
However, politics aside, the mural speaks to the character of the Fremont East district, a community of young, dedicated, and hard-working local businesses fighting for their voice. Fairey’s murals amplify the voices of marginalized communities and challenge the status quo. His striking use of color and bold imagery make his pieces impossible to ignore, making Fairey a beloved fixture of the festival’s art scene.
The mural still stands today at the corner of 6th and Fremont in Downtown Las Vegas. For more information on the Corporate Welfare mural, click here.
Multiple Pieces (2013/2015) by D*Face
Okay, we sort of cheated on this one but how could you not! Painted in 2013 and 2015, two out of the three original D*Face murals are still standing and found today in the festival’s boundary. The bright blue facade of the El Cortez Cabana Suites made a perfect backdrop for “I Gave Her My Heart”, a mural of a lonely half-skeletal man sitting in despair, when D*Face left his mark on the city streets in the first year of the festival. Since then, the sad but relatable mural fitting enough for a Blink-182 cover (see California), has been an iconic mainstay of Life is Beautiful history.
In 2015, D*Face made another return to Downtown Las Vegas, painting “Peacemaker”, a brilliant juxtaposition between violence and kindness, with an extremely clear message of the overall belief that “Peace” should replace violence. With his distinct blend of street art and pop art influences, D*Face provokes conversations and encourages introspection.
For over a decade, Life is Beautiful has provided a platform for some of the world’s most talented artists to showcase their creativity and engage with the public through their thought-provoking, action-inspiring, and artistically mesmerizing murals. But even more so, the works of Shepard Fairey, Okuda San Miguel, Felipe Pantone, D*Face, and Vhils have left an indelible mark on the Downtown Las Vegas landscape, breathing new life into the city landscape. Most of all, credit must be given to JustKids for curating all of the murals above, if it were not for them, Downtown Las Vegas would continue to lack the color, message, and revitalization that has transpired. And while some of these landmarks have come and gone, their impact on viewers will last a lifetime. As we celebrate a decade of beautiful art, we eagerly anticipate the future, where the festival will undoubtedly continue to inspire, provoke, and transform urban landscapes into awe-inspiring galleries of creativity.