Alexander P. Huerta’s murals can be found nearly everywhere in downtown’s Arts District. Colorful, floating palettes, guitars and mysterious eyes signal to whoever’s driving through or strolling by that, Hey, this is where art in Las Vegas happens. Indeed, Huerta’s beautiful works serve as the unofficial markers of our creative center, his bright works elevating the district’s visual profile.
Huerta, 44, knows about elevation. A graduate of Clark High School, he worked for 15 years in the Harrah’s race and sports book before hitting “rock bottom.” “My poor decisions and drinking led me to a bad place,” he confesses. “I had an epiphany; my whole thought-process changed. God showed me I could be an artist. I started painting every day, and I’ve been climbing upward ever since.”
Before his decision to paint, Huerta had little formal training, just half-remembered art classes he had taken in high school, mainly as a way of picking up girls. Then he got serious: He bought supplies and taught himself.
Huerta began selling his artworks at First Friday in 2002. Emboldened by his fledgling success, Huerta started painting murals as a way to help local businesses deal with graffiti.
“The murals are just my way of letting people know that there’s art here in Vegas,” he says. “That there are artists waiting to be discovered, explored.”
When he’s not painting murals, Huerta uses oils and acrylics to paint abstract images and Sharpie ink pens to create pointillist images. In 2008, he sold a pointillist image on canvas to a collector, the proceeds of which enabled him to secure his own studio, PeaceNart, in the Arts Factory. He also founded and now helps organize Bar & Bistro’s Painters and Poets Jam, which he calls “the best-kept secret in Vegas.” He continues to collaborate and put on shows with his collective 3 Bad Sheep. And he conducted a July 23 live body-painting session at the Cosmopolitan as part of ARTrageous Vegas, an event put on by the LGBT Center of Southern Nevada.
Recently, Huerta’s mural jobs have expanded beyond the Arts District and into the downtown community. He has been tapped by City Center Apartments (811 E. Bridger Ave.) to paint a mural on a 10-by-20-foot interior wall. City Center houses veterans, senior citizens and disabled. (Incidentally, it was the first downtown revitalization project, opened in 2002 by Mayor Oscar Goodman and owner Steve Biagiotti.)
“Many of our residents rarely leave the building except for doctor visits,” says City Center Manager Lesley Perceval. “Alexander is the perfect artist to bring the arts to those who’d otherwise never see any of the exciting things taking place in their own neighborhood.” A preliminary sketch shows that it will be a brightly colored mural incorporating the themes of music and art with images of buildings being buzzed by flying artist palettes.
“The mural will be a reminder of how great it is to explore the possibilities of life,” Huerta says. “Every day when the residents walk by, maybe not feeling as good as they’d like, their eyes will have a hard time staying off the exploding colors. The mural will add brightness to their thoughts, which will in turn lift them up.”
For Huerta, being an artist is a nice gig, but not at all lucrative. There’s always a tough month or two when he has to pay rent instead of eat. But he’ll happily eat “mayo sandwiches” by himself for his art.
“It’s unbelievable how everything has unfolded for me,” he says. “I woke up again this morning to be that artist God showed me I can be. I’m so fortunate.”