On a recent trip to Las Vegas, Nevada, I was lucky enough to link up with ’Vegas native, art impresario, and fashionista Rikka Logan. Rikka runs DTLV Art Walk, a service that provides custom group and individual street art and mural tours in the “downtown” area of the gambling capital of the United States.
Arriving in Las Vegas to clear skies, bright sunshine, and temperatures in the 70s Fahrenheit (20s Celsius) was quite a pleasant surprise. I’d traveled from Minneapolis, Minnesota, leaving behind temps of 15 degrees Fahrenheit (-9 Celsius), with blowing snow and grey, overcast skies. The excellent weather was a great start to a bright and colorful day of viewing, photographing, discussing, and learning with the city’s most knowledgeable urban art teacher.
I went into the DTLV Art Walk experience almost completely clueless about the city’s urban artscape, having viewed only an online mural article or two, and with no knowledge of the local players, locations, or programs. I wasn’t even aware of the city’s Life Is Beautiful Festival and culture extravaganza, held in collaboration with global creative house JustKids. The annual music and art bash, which clearly attracts and involves incredible talent, has been rolling since 2013. From my hotel room on the infamous Las Vegas Casino Strip, I took a 15-minute Uber ride downtown and met Rikka at a local coffee shop.
As we walked northwest along Fremont Street, Rikka related the work-in-progress nature of the area’s revitalization project. Workers applied new asphalt surfaces to the length of Fremont St. as we strolled, and several abandoned businesses along our route showed recent signs of resurrection. We ducked into an alleyway adjacent to 11th Street Records and surveyed one of many cool art-related projects. Market in the Alley functions as an open-air weekend market at various points throughout the year and is also fully decorated by the city’s artistic community. Murals, stencils, stickers (and even a secret chamber featuring a mirror ball!) put the “funk” in this functional community space.
Across Fremont Street at Ferguson’s the art-tour part of our downtown walk kicks immediately into high gear. Ferguson’s is another revitalization project which is “cultivating a space for the community that celebrates creativity” right in the heart of Old Vegas. Towering above the landscaped grounds of this refurbished and repurposed 1940’s era motel is a truly iconic piece of art. Mike Ross’s legendary sculpture “Big Rig Jig” strikes an imposing stance in the center of the courtyard. Consisting of two complete 18-wheeled tanker trucks, the installation stands 50 feet tall and weighs a stunning 25 tons (22,700kg)!! Before landing in downtown Las Vegas, this mammoth piece traveled to Nevada’s Burning Man Festival in 2007 followed by Coachella in 2008 – it even roared into southwestern England for Banksy’s satirical theme-park extravaganza Dismaland in 2015.
From Ferguson’s, Rikka and I wound through downtown Vegas’ alleyways and side streets for the next couple of hours. Along the way, we encountered a truly mind-blowing range of street artistry, pieces created by a huge cross-section of talent from the U.S.A. and multiple countries around the world. Murals, stencils, wheatpaste, stickers, graffiti… the artworks range from obvious to subtle and every degree in-between. We even had the pleasure of dropping into local artist Franky Aguilar’s 9th Gallery Arts studio for a chat with Franky and a sneak peek at his ever-evolving style and beautiful Vegas-icon themed work.
Las Vegas completely surprised me with the depth, variety, and complexity of street art present throughout Fremont/Downtown. If your travel plans include a visit to this famous desert casino town, you now know that it is also firmly established as a regional street art powerhouse, a city with a strong sense of community pride, and one with an obvious and ongoing commitment to the arts and revitalization. When visiting, make sure to reach out to Rikka at DTLV Art Walk to get the inside scoop on all of Sin City’s outside art!
Scroll down for a lot of Las Vegas street art!