The idea of “Las Vegas art” may conjure up images of tacky velvet paintings of Elvis, but the truth is that Las Vegas has a thriving downtown arts community.
Former Mayor Oscar Goodman helped spearhead a movement to invigorate the arts district, which sits just south of the Fremont Street Experience pedestrian mall and east of the Las Vegas Premium Outlets. The next mayor, Goodman’s wife Carolyn Goodman, continued the project with private donors such as Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. This group continued to develop the formerly run-down district, hoping to give Las Vegas locals an arts and downtown environment to call their own.
Known as 18b, this revitalized art district is in homage to the original art district in the area, which consisted of 18 blocks. The current version encompasses more than just those 18 blocks, creating an urban mix of residential, commercial, and cultural uses, where a burgeoning arts scene continues to thrive. The Arts Factory represents the nucleus of 18b, playing host to a variety of artists, exhibitions, and commercial art projects within the space. A number of other galleries and art studios offer a platform for an eclectic mix of Las Vegas art.
Although 18b is a lively district to visit on any day or evening, the First Friday celebration is a monthly party for Las Vegas art. The festival features more than 100 artists in media such as painting, ceramics, mixed media, photography, jewelry, textile art, and sculpture. More than 80 indoor art, food, and shopping venues open their doors, often bringing some of their wares and services outdoors.
Additionally, 50 outdoor artists, artisans, and entertainers take part in the spirited atmosphere. Food carts and other vendors also populate the street scene. The event takes place on the first Friday of every month from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., sometimes attracting as many as 20,000 people.
In the Area
Branching out from 18b is the nearby Smith Center for the Performing Arts, which opened in 2012. The center is part of a larger city project known as “Symphony Park,” and the city has plans for residential and entertainment developments, as well as medical facilities in the area.
The hugely successful company Zappos has recently relocated its base of operations from Henderson to the Las Vegas downtown area, showing CEO Hsieh’s commitment to revitalizing downtown.
Hsieh envisions Zappos employees living in the urban residential dwellings and frequenting area restaurants and businesses. Zappos has pumped $350 million into small businesses, real estate, and cultural revival in the arts district and surrounding areas.
As the district’s metamorphosis has taken shape, it continues fulfilling Mayor Goodman’s other benefactors’ goal to reclaim and revitalize the area, as well as illustrate Las Vegas’ thriving arts scene — showing that there is indeed more to the town than casinos.
Image Source: Flickr