From the brightly lit 'Strip' above to the underground man made caverns
of the storm drains running below, the contrast couldn't be greater.
Walking through muck and water in the miles of tunnels, the artists who are known only by their nicknames find areas unused or cover over old areas of graffiti.
With no light except what they carry, plus the occasional grate allowing just a gleam of light from above, the artists portray life, symbolism and imagination from a spray can. While many of the painters in the tunnels may be just taggers looking for a safe tag spot some of the art works are just that, well done works of art, albeit not Van Gogh or Monet, but to some these art works are even more impressive. The paintings will never see the light of day, being on walls under the Strips casinos. But many of the artists aren't seeking the accolades of the world at large but only the acknowledgement of their underground peers.
While it is still illegal to paint in the tunnels, the local code enforcement supervisor Candy Lucas for the entire county has no plans to begin enforcing the tunnels. Nearly $30 million is spent annually to remove graffiti in the county.
Some of these artists have also come out of the dark, such as Ed and Johnny Warren, who began in the tunnels ten years ago. Older now and with children to raise plus jobs they tend to spend more time on the surface. In places like the 'the Attic' which is a upscale clothing store in downtown Las Vegas. The owner of the store has an area behind the building she allows the artists and taggers to use to showcase their work which has the benefit of keeping them off the front of the building.
Some of the artists/taggers have taken the art to a logical extension like Joshua Glover who is 30 years old now. "Ruckus" began as one of the first to "work the tunnels" but after getting tired of 'ripping and running' to stay ahead of the law, Glover got a degree in Graphics Design worked his way up the corporate ladder and eventually started his own company.
Now doing legal murals, he has taken what was just a passion and refined it into a way to make his art support his passion for that art.
In the link to the Las Vegas Sun is a video of the tunnels with some of the more visually stunning walls. Impressive enough to consider as a vacation stop? Maybe.