These days, walking through downtown Las Vegas feels more like taking in an art exhibit than simply navigating streets.
Vibrant murals transform building exteriors into mesmerizing patterns, while custom art pieces catch the eye at traffic intersections.
This took years to achieve — thanks to the work of community arts organizations and festivals, including the upcoming annual Life Is Beautiful music and art festival. This anticipated event that attracts tens of thousands, and features elaborate artworks from across the globe, incorporates an ongoing mural project that has resulted in prominent street art now livening downtown neighborhoods.
The Smith Center also embraces the visual arts with many original commissioned artworks enriching its campus. The center encourages Southern Nevadans to explore and enjoy the rich variety of artworks at both its campus and throughout the downtown community — read the stories of just a few of these below.
“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” by Ruben Sanchez
This color-bursting cubist piece at Las Vegas Boulevard and Fremont Street combines a desert color palette with the glamour of a Vegas cocktail, to depict author Hunter S. Thompson in a nod to his famed eponymous book, chronicling his frenzied and debauchery-riddled visit to Vegas.
Sanchez sees Hunter’s book as embodying the exhilarating promise of Vegas, according to his interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“If you read the book, it’s like the whole experience, the colors, the lights, the casinos, the everything,” Sanchez says. “It’s what Vegas is about.”
Many Southern Nevadans might not realize that the renowned Shepard Fairey, best known for his iconic stencil portrait of Barack Obama, has painted vibrant — and goliath — pieces of Las Vegas street art.
This includes the eye-grabbing, 18-story mural on the North Tower of the Plaza Hotel & Casino. The mural’s complex lines and circles, enhanced with bold blacks and reds, pays homage to the Vegas gaming legacy by incorporating playing-card symbols and the colors of the roulette wheel.
As suggested by its title, the mural aims to remind viewers “that peace and harmony are the only way to maintain what sustains us,” reads the Plaza Hotel & Casino website.
“Cultivate Harmony” by Shepard Fairey
Southern Nevadans can delight in watching The Plaza transform into an unorthodox art museum, with its North Tower now boasting three massive murals through the Life Is Beautiful street-art project. These include the whimsical 21-story FAILE mural, boasting an anthropomorphic canine dressed in leather, with a promising deck of cards and a ‘50s-reminiscent woman on his arm.
This piece is the product of painting partners Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller, who operate together as FAILE – an anagram of their first project together titled “A Life.”
This building-length mural marked the prolific pair’s largest piece yet. It also fits into their unrivaled aesthetic, with often draws from pop art and graphic novels.
“Genius in Flight” by Benjamin Victor
Presiding over The Smith Center’s Grand Lobby staircase, this art deco sculpture serves as a striking first impression for Smith Center newcomers.
Specially commissioned for The Smith Center, this sculpture’s design reflects the same inspiration for the overall aesthetic of The Smith Center campus: the Hoover Dam. This piece pays homage to the iconic pair of Winged Figures of the Republic sculptures that guard the dam.
A widely acclaimed American sculptor, Victor became the youngest artist ever to have a sculpture in the National Statuary Hall in the United States capitol. He remains the only living artist to now have two pieces in this prominent collection.
“Pipe Dream” (Fanfare for the Common Man) by Tim Bavington
Countless Smith Center visitors stop to enjoy and take photos with this towering, multi-colored sculpture fronting The Smith Center’s 2-acre Symphony Park. A commissioned work by Bavington, a Las Vegas artist, the piece offers a vibrant visual that welcomes all to The Smith Center campus.
But do people know what the sculpture represents?
This artwork is named after the classical piece “Fanfare for the Common Man” by 20th-century American composer Aaron Copland. This was chosen as the musical theme behind The Smith Center and its mission to serve as an inclusive hub for the whole community.
Created with synthetic polymer paint, each vertical band of color in the sculpture represents a music note from Copland’s composition.