"Love is Power. Power is Life. Life is Beautiful." The words are scrawled in red, encircling a cut out of a large, purple cactus flower. Pasted to the wall, the flower is surrounded by hundreds of other natural desert elements, with hand-written messages. For this year's Life is Beautiful festival, my proposal submitted to curator Patrick Duffy envisioned a collage installation created by the festival visitors themselves, slowly growing over the three days of the festival.
Attendance numbers were up for Las Vegas' second Life is Beautiful festival held during the last of the warm weather in late September. The focus on visual arts was again strong, with the exhibition venue moving to the previously shuttered Western Hotel, sharing space with the guest speakers in the Learning component. The Street Art Program, again curated by Charlotte Dutoit, brought new works to buildings in downtown Las Vegas. With many mural works from the first festival in 2013 still in existence, the face of downtown has changed dramatically.
I've put together a slideshow, offering a tour of both temporary and permanent visual art features of the 2014 festival. I can't promise that it's fully comprehensive, but it gives a taste of the visual smörgåsbord available to festival-goers taking time out from the multitude of aural offerings. The first images were taken the evening before the festival opened, when some of the visiting street artists were putting the finishing touches on their works. For further information on artists, see the Life is Beautiful line-up.
The best festivals are uplifting, creating a powerful positive energy that lives on after the festival is over. In the downtown center of a city where stark reminders of the hard-hitting recent recession are still evident, the Life is Beautiful festival achieved that for me. As one of my collage participants wrote, quoting the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, "Destruction leads to a very rough road but it also breeds creation."