Even Amongst the Neon Lights of Las Vegas, the street art of Life Is Beautiful Stands Out (w/interview update!)
JustKids is back at the Life Is Beautiful music and art festival in Las Vegas, with a mega-lineup of street works by Pantone, Okuda, Faile, Fafi, Broken Fingaz, Kevin Lyons and more. We have been on the ground checking it out...
From September 22—24, 2017, the Life Is Beautiful fest takes over Las Vegas, and this year's music lineup has the heavy hitters including Gorillaz, Chance the Rapper, Lorde, HAIM and the xx amongst others. Of course, our attention turns to the art portion of the festial, and again in 2017, the JustKids team has curated a bunch of murals and installations surrounding the festival. Of course, you have to have your own star-studded art lineup to compete with the music, and this year JustKids added a little neon to Felipe Pantone's mural from 2016, had Okuda create a mini-universe, saw murals from Broken Fingaz, Fafi, Kevin Lyons, Bicicleta, Faile, Zest, Luzinterruptus and more to Vegas for the 2017 edition.
We sat down with JustKids founder, Charlotte Dutoit, about putting together the Life Is Beautiful Festival, the unique value of working in Las Vegas during a popular music festival, and re-inventing the line-up each year.
Mike Stalter: How many years has Justkids been involved with the festival and how have you seen the art program change during that time?
Charlotte Dutoit: Since year one. We did our first visit on site in May 2013, when the downtown area of Vegas was just starting to be revitalized and we proposed a site-specific art program. I immediately loved the location and history related to "Old School Las Vegas." There were not so many things happening at that time beside the vintage Downtown Casinos, a couple of bars and lots of construction. But there was a really good energy and spirit; you could feel that something bigger was emerging again in that part of town and we wanted to be a part of it.
What is your favorite thing about this particular festival?
The festival is literally in the heart of the Downtown area, we fence 20 blocks so it's not artificial and built just for the occasion. It's real. There is more sincere interaction with the public that shows up and one can see the artistic work in progress. Not like others forms of art that you only get the final product, in this case its out there in all its metamorphosis and gradations. Its just grows with you.
How do you feel about all of the work the artists did for Life is Beautiful 2017?
I am very excited by this year line-up and artworks. My job goes from artistic visioning to hands on delivery and we try to improve each year and work on new mediums as well. This year some installations are pretty complex and required a solid production and expertise but we always strive to push it further both creatively and in logistic. Because the program is gaining reputation year after year we are also able to attract bigger names such as Faile who are collaborating with us for the first time this year. However it's very important for me as a curator to bring new name and fresh blood to not repeat the formula but expand it. Aside from that we are not a faceless company so we are hands on in everything that we do. That face to face approach leads to a great communication with the artist opening the possibility to create something they haven’t done before like Okuda sixteen feet and 2,000 thousand pound multi color bear sculpture slash mural, Felipe Pantone neon mural or Mau Lencinas transition from digital wizard to outdoor artist.
Obviously walls get repurposed over time and painted over by multiple artists. You added the cool neon effect to Felipe Pantone's wall from last year. Does that make it a more permanent piece for downtown Las Vegas?
Actually walls are not so much repurposed. We try to keep them as long as possible and we also maintain and clean them if they get tagged or damaged. We feel that the murals and installations are a permanent part of the city and not a temporary spectacle. They become a place to meet, a reference point for a location, attracts tourism, but most important of all, they are a part of something bigger than us.
Of course Felipe's piece is now even more permanent because of the neon that has been incorporated to the piece. The additions that we manege to put in this year just makes it more valuable, diverse and meaningful.
Do you see other opportunities for permanent works in the area?
We are very much into installations for two reason: One, because we have already painted almost all the walls possible around and would rather not to paint them over and over, and two, it brings something new and unique that festival attendees and Downtown visitors really enjoy.
A lot of festivals are now incorporating an art component. What do you feel is important in making that successful?
Yes, it's the art component that has alway been, since year one, an essential part of Life is Beautiful. Festival-goers don't come only for the concerts, they come for the overall experience. Anything that is interactive and visually stimulating is highly-appreciated for a wider range of involvement, from the artistic discovery to the fun selfies. Asides it gives people the opportunity to access art and develop their broader sense of culture.
photos by HVW8Chump