If you take to the streets in Downtown Las Vegas around August, you might notice new cartoonish faces and rainbow colored flowers blooming on alleyway walls. No, it’s not the desert heat making you hallucinate. What you’re witnessing is new street art that appears like clockwork each summer before the Life is Beautiful festival. Since 2013, the annual event has served as the main catalyst for this phenomenon, but casinos, bars and apartment complexes in the area are also getting in on the trend year-round.
While some pieces appear only for a short while – such as the much-loved Art Motel, which transformed an empty 13,000 square-foot building into an immersive experience – many pieces have become neighborhood fixtures.
The next time you’re in the Fremont Street area, take yourself on a free, self-guided street art tour, and keep an eye out for these gems.
Horned Toad by ROA
Located on Stewart Avenue, this immensely detailed black and white piece features a jarring pop of red in the form of blood spurting out of the titular creature’s face. The macabre visual didn’t spring from the artist’s imagination. The real-life horned lizard actually does squirt blood out of its eyes as a bizarre defense mechanism, giving this unique piece of street art an interesting educational component.
3D Mural by Felipe Pantone
Do yourself a favor and check this one out at dusk. Located on 7th Street and Ogden Avenue, this neon wonder contrasts stark black and white with a gash of neon that literally jumps off the wall.
Mural by Shepard Fairey
Shepard Fairey is best known for creating the iconic Barack Obama “Hope” poster that came to represent the former president’s 2008 campaign. His work can also be seen in several places in Downtown Las Vegas, including on the side of the Plaza Hotel and Casino at the western end of Fremont Street. The 18-story mural depicts a massive red, white and black design in the artist’s inimitable style.
The Cycle of Civilization by Zio Ziegler
Perhaps the most intricate of all murals in Downtown Las Vegas, this piece just off 7th Street and Ogden Avenue is one you’ll want to spend some time examining. Interwoven black and white linework stands out against a teal background, making for an artistic experience that draws you in from far away and then wows you when you get up close to marvel at its complexity.
Hunter S. Thompson by Ruben Sanchez
Hunter S. Thompson left an indelible mark on Las Vegas when he wrote Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – a novel which examines the spectacle of the city with equal parts fascination, horror and dark humor. It’s only fitting that this particular piece of street art, which portrays the author with his signature hat and sunglasses in a disjointed, colorful fashion, is set on Las Vegas Boulevard and Fremont Street – the intersection of two Sin City roads that are as iconic as the author himself.