Looking for a socially distant activity that will get you out of the house? Take a car ride and go hunting for sculptures, murals, and graffiti.
One of my favorite activities is to go hunting for street and public art, which has the added bonus of being something you can do largely from the safety (and air conditioning) of your car. It’s kinda like when I was a kid and we used to drive around to look at houses in fancy neighborhoods like Rancho Circle, only much more culturally enriching.
If you’d like to take a drive and look for some art, here are some suggestions.
In Downtown Las Vegas, you see everything from gang tags to massive murals from the Life is Beautiful Festival.
Drive east down Fremont Street from Las Vegas Boulevard and you’ll find amazing murals on Fremont as well as along intersecting streets (roughly within the footprint of LIB). As you get past Fergusons Downtown at 11th Street, things start to taper off in the artwork department. You’ll recognize Fergusons Downton by the s-shaped semi truck sculpture in the courtyard, “Big Rig Jig.”
Over on Main Street, you’ll find vintage shops and trendy new places along the recently renovated street (which is now one-way only – traffic flows north). On the streets intersecting Main are where you’ll find wonderful murals adorning the sides of the buildings.
About a block west of Main Street, you’ll find Graffiti Alley, which runs parallel to Main. It’s full of ever-changing artwork, tags, and messages (as are many alleys in this area). In general, the further away from Main Street you go, the artwork is more graffiti than murals.
I have to offer a warning: Fremont and Main Street are downtown, and you may encounter mentally distressed individuals, people under the influence, and those who could simply be called “colorful.” Be respectful and aware of your surroundings. I saw one Google review that said of Graffiti Alley, “Not what I expected and the area was pretty chock full of vagrants and homeless people,” but I honestly have never had any issues.
If exploring alleys in Downtown Las Vegas sounds too sketchy for you, don’t worry – we have plenty of other artwork around the valley.
Utility Box Art
Did you know Las Vegas has an official program to promote art on utility boxes? The program started in 2005 and has prettied up utility boxes throughout town. Personally, I’m a big fan of the lizard and snake over on Lone Mountain, but you can find these gems by Desert Breeze Park, along Maryland Parkway, and in several other locations. Check the program's website for a list of the neighborhoods featuring artful utility boxes.
We’ve also got fancy medians that feature sculptures of Joshua Trees, coyotes, scorpions, and other desert flora and fauna. I’m not sure why our medians also feature saguaro cactus sculptures since they’re native to the Sonoran Desert, not the Mojave, but inclusivity, I guess? No cacti left behind?
In addition to the desert-themed beautification on medians all over town, Clark County took it a step further with their “Centered” project. Ten artists were selected to create original sculptures, like the large metal heads on Eastern at the 215 and the octopus on Pecos-McLeod, south of Desert Inn. The project’s website lists all the artwork.
I’d also recommend Alta from Rampart to Valley View for home-grown, local murals. Every time I drive it, I see a few new pieces. I think it’s an up-and-comer for street art.
You can find all kinds of art along the Strip, especially at Aria and CityCenter, but you have to get out of the car and proceed on foot to see anything. While that’s a little too much potential ‘rona exposure for me, if you’re masked up and low-risk, you’ll find plenty to enjoy, like Maya Lin’s sculpture of the Colorado River, which is over the front desk at Aria. Lin also designed the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC.
Have you been out hunting for art in Las Vegas? What are some of your favorite finds?
All photos by Terrisa Meeks