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December 22, 2014

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Joe Downtown Show: Art is starting to cover downtown walls, but one mural is already gone

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Joe Schoenmann

A mural for the ‘Life is Beautiful’ festival in mid progress in downtown Las Vegas as seen on Monday, Oct. 21, 2013.

Joe Downtown Radio

Downtown's new murals

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Joe Schoenmann talks to Jennifer Cornthwaite of The Beat and Emergency Arts, about a decision to paint over a mural on the side of her building, and Ed Fuentes, who writes about street art.

Murals for Life Is Beautiful

A mural for the 'Life is Beautiful' festival in mid progress in downtown Las Vegas as seen on Monday, Oct. 21, 2013. Launch slideshow »

People see themselves in art. Or sometimes they discover a theme or get a feeling that surprises them: Revulsion. Joy. Anger. Happiness.

A little bit of that happened downtown recently.

Murals, several stories high, courtesy of artists commissioned by organizers of October's Life Is Beautiful festival, transformed some of the ugliest, most base parts of the city's urban core into must-see works.

Not two weeks ago, I heard this: "Gee, shouldn't some developer do something over there on 7th between Stewart and Ogden?" That kind of talk never happened before. It's happening now because six or more murals have turned that one-block stretch of street into an artistic wonderland.

To date, I've heard no complaints about any of those murals. The Mural of San Francisco-based artist Zio Ziegler, which spans more than 100 feet and two stories, might already be the most photographed single work in Las Vegas.

But one mural elsewhere has disappeared.

Ukranian artist Interesni Kazki painted a giant, Vegas Vic-like cowboy character on the exterior of the Emergency Arts building at 6th Street and Fremont Street. In the cowboy's foreground was an old-time slot machine. His hand reached across the wall to several arms that seemed to reach up and out of the sand.

What did it mean?

No clue. I thought it was unusual because its precision and flat shadowing gave it an almost documentary yet surrealistic feel — Salvador Dali-esque.

Why was it painted over?

On this week's Joe Downtown Show, I talk to one of people who helped make that decision, Jennifer Cornthwaite. Cornthwaite's The Beat and Emergency Arts are both housed in a building owned by the El Cortez. Kazki's mural was on that building.

Some have speculated the mural was "anti-gaming," so the casino wanted it gone. Cornthwaite, an art lover who started the first gallery in the east Fremont area years ago, will only say it didn't match downtown's vibe.

Along with Cornthwaite, I talk to Ed Fuentes, a Los Angeles transplant who writes about street art, and is about to start a blog focusing exclusively on Las Vegas's street art.

Listen to the show here.

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown, he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.

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