“P erhaps you’ve seen the eccentric black and white Z-shaped mural created by Argentinian-Spanish artist Felipe Pantone off of 7th Street in Las Vegas or the three 38-story-tall murals on the sides of the Plaza Hotel produced by artists Shepard Fairey, Faile and D*Face. This is the work of JustKids, a contemporary art curation and production company. The group has been installing large-scale murals and other artworks since 2013.
Led by Franco-American curator Charlotte Dutoit, Justkids works with brands, festivals, hotels and other clients to generate excitement and exposure for businesses with art by well-known international artists.
Over the past seven years, Justkids has produced hundreds of projects, nearly a third of them in Las Vegas.
“When we started the project in 2013, the east part of Downtown was in decay,” Dutoit said in an email interview. “But thanks to the revitalization efforts of a some majors players, such as Downtown Project or [the art and music festival] Life Is Beautiful, it also had the potential to be developed in a pleasant pedestrian area and to become again the real town center it was. We had plenty of unoccupied buildings to paint on, private funding supporting the cost and a very welcoming local community eager for more culture and art.”
The Downtown Project is a for-profit enterprise funded by Zappos’ CEO Tony Hsieh to develop and manage small businesses and real estate in the area. According to Dutoit, the Downtown Project’s efforts have led to a push to make the area more pleasant for pedestrians with murals and other artworks. And besides the economic impact public art has had on the downtown area by increasing visitation, Dutoit believes the art in the neighborhood plays a huge role in placemaking.
“I learned that a big part of good placemaking is creating community and a sense of re-discovery of the beauty that is there in the city,” said Dutoit, “It transforms the space by sharing visions, ideas and experience, so naturally it brings discussion in the community and encourages the participation of all.”
Although the company doesn’t want to limit its scope of work to just street art, many of its artists have strong connections to the street—like André Saraiva, who began tagging his name throughout neighborhood walls in Paris at the beginning of his artistic career.
“I am personally very much into contemporary art, in the general sense of it, so I intend to not limit Justkids in only one genre or to put a label on the type of art we curate and produce, although it is true that we work a lot in the public realm,” said Dutoit.
Recently Justkids has been asked by the Ultimate Fighting Championship to create a series of large canvas pieces for its new campus in Las Vegas, and the group also works with local publications like Las Vegas Weekly for illustration projects.
Justkids’ next projects include an installation including a mural and three sculptures by Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel for Park MGM and three sculptures at Mama Rabbit, a tequila bar located on the Las Vegas Strip.