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August 1, 2014

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Joe Downtown:

Joe Downtown: Mural painted for Life is Beautiful festival is gone, but artist says he will paint another

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Joe Schoenmann

Zio Ziegler, a San Francisco-based muralist, created this mural on the back wall of the Western hotel.

Western mural

Zio Ziegler, a San Francisco-based muralist, created this mural on the back wall of the Western hotel. Launch slideshow »

A large downtown mural by famed San Francisco muralist Zio Ziegler, painted in June for the Life is Beautiful festival, has disappeared. The Downtown Project, which is a Life is Beautiful partner, tore down the building the mural was painted on at the festival’s request.

The mural, a highly detailed and intricate black-and-white of what looked like mechanized figures, stood three stories tall. It went up on a section of the Western hotel/casino, 899 Fremont St., that was demolished in the past week or so. A source from the Downtown Project, which purchased the Western in March, said the building section was torn down for Life is Beautiful.

Ziegler said "it's a bummer" that it was destroyed. However, he has been invited back to do another mural that's even larger. He said he will return Oct. 20 and work three days on a mural that will cover an area measuring about 200 feet by 30 feet.

A spokeswoman for the festival said the mural was intended to be temporary because plans were to tear down that section of the Western as part of the renovation of the festival footprint.

Rehan Choudhry, co-founder of Life is Beautiful, said in June that Ziegler’s was the first of five murals that would grace some of downtown’s vacant walls for the festival, which runs Oct. 26-27. Beyond music and food, a big part of the festival is art. An entire empty hotel is to be converted into gallery space for artists as part of the festival’s “Art Odyssey.”

Though an official map of the 15-block festival grounds hasn’t been released, the area in the parking lot of the Western is rumored to be home to the festival’s Culinary Village, which has been described as “a Moroccan-style bazaar featuring food stations manned by more than 60 celebrity and local chefs.”

Muralist and arts reporter Ed Fuentes said in June that Ziegler’s work “says street art can be fine art.”

After learning of the mural’s disappearance, Fuentes was circumspect about art’s place in the city.

“Las Vegas has to decide the value of any potential art movement that comes from within its own urban culture,” he said.

Eradicating the mural, he added, tells him “art is not yet valued, which is a small-town ideology.”

He added that it demonstrates the need of those who commission murals to find out if a building is vulnerable to development.

“It's hard enough to get new works up,” he said. “Some digging may have revealed that the site was more temporary than the art itself.”

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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