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October 24, 2014

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Joe Downtown:

Joe Downtown: Mural removed because it ‘didn’t reflect the spirit’ of downtown, but at least people noticed

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Joe Schoenmann

A fresh coat of paint is added to the Emergency Arts’ building wall, which used to display a Life is Beautiful Festival mural Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013.

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 »

A piece of the Life is Beautiful festival disappeared Tuesday.

One of several murals created on downtown buildings for the October festival that celebrated art, music, food and learning was painted over.

To many, the downtown murals were one of the most welcomed aspects of the festival — long after the music ended, the speakers left and the food vendors drove away, the artistry of the murals lived on.

But the mural on the side of the Beat coffeehouse, at 6th and Fremont streets, of a Vegas Vic-like character in front of an old-time slot machine, with hands reaching toward him, is no more.

By early Tuesday afternoon, the Sun had received several reader emails about and smartphone photos of the disappearing mural.

Jennifer Cornthwaite, who operates Emergency Arts, the business adjoining the Beat, said the decision to paint over the mural came because “it didn’t reflect the spirit of all the people working downtown at all.

“We want (something) positive that makes people happy and reflects the people that are here.”

Cornthwaite added that Interesni Kazki’s mural looked like “people are buried; their hands are coming up from what would be the ground.”

She said even the Ukrainian artist who painted the mural admitted it had a negative message. When he was contacted and informed it would be painted over, she added, he expressed “surprise it was even up.”

“Even he knew it was something that was negative,” Cornthwaite said.

Kazki could not immediately be reached for comment.

Cornthwaite said a partnership has now been created between Life is Beautiful, First Friday, Emergency Arts and the El Cortez. They are forming a murals committee and will sponsor a contest, with the winner receiving an unspecified amount of money and the right to paint a mural on the Emergency Arts building wall. They also are considering changing the mural every year or so, she said.

“I think we’ll come back with something way more representative,” she said.

Ed Fuentes, an arts journalist and photographer who catalogued much of downtown Los Angeles’ redevelopment, characterized Kazki’s mural as “one of the cool ones.”

He said a mural can do one of two things: be a brand for a project, such as Life is Beautiful, or be something that allows an artist “to do or say what he or she wants.”

“At some point you have to decide: Is it the creative people or the marketing people who decide what can happen downtown?” he said. “It’s a negotiation at times, but one that has to be defined.”

In the end, the biggest thing that may have come out of the disappearing mural is the demonstration that, for the first time in many years, art in a once-forgotten section of downtown is something people want and are beginning to notice.

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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