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Meet the Art Department- John Stevens

John Stevens

Las Vegas, NV

Event Designer

Years Active: 16

How did you get your start? What was your first job/gig?

I grew up with a love for theater and this idea that art and storytelling could collide so beautifully live and in-person. I then learned in high school that something called "Technical Theater" existed and a career in creating worlds for storytelling was a possibility. I spent 3 of those 4 years as the lead set designer for many productions- The Miser, 10 Little Indians, and Annie: The Musical to name a few. My first paid gig was to create worlds- with chalk. I was tasked with drawing scenes in forced perspective around "homeless" volunteers on the streets of downtown Los Angeles to create awareness for the Weingart Center's Text Them Home Campaign.

Did you go to school or have any formal training that helped prepare you for your career?

I was involved in Drawing, Art, and Technical Theater in High School. I then furthered my education at Sierra College where I received an Associate of Arts in Applied Art & Design. I then went even further to The Art Institute of California - Hollywood, where learned some real industry experience and skills and received a Bachelor of Science in Set & Exhibit Design. Almost all the skills I've learned in my education are both useful and relevant in my current career path.

What are some of the challenges you’ve had in your career? How did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge for me has been finding my career path. The journey has taken me many places. It happened much slower than I anticipated. A year after graduating from The Art Institute, I moved back in with my parents due to the cost of living being expensive in LA. Almost 6 months later, I got what I thought was going to be a great career opportunity. My “aha” moment happened when I was faced with eviction from the apartment I had just moved into for a month in Studio City. I found myself on the road again to Las Vegas where I lived (and still live) with my college roommate and best friend. I used to take the Megabus overnight to Union Station, and then the Metro to Studio City to drop off hand drafting for Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood the following day. It was a challenge, but I did not want to miss out on the opportunity. I've lived in Vegas for more than 5 years now. I've found employment as an Event Designer with MGM Resorts Event Productions and have been granted many opportunities to work with clients at multiple venues on and off the strip. Additionally, I've been able to find freelance work. I guess the thing to learn here is you get by with a little help from your friends. Apply for the job, even if you believe you lack the experience. Passion makes you do crazy things, and sometimes that's okay.

What is your advice for those starting out in the Art Department?

It's important to have patience and be assertive in what you want to accomplish. Share your ideas, even if you think it's silly or outlandish. You may inspire or create a change in something great. Critical thinking and time management are your friends. Don't be shy about asking for payment for your work - always be upfront and honest about how much you're worth.

Photos in Interview (above):

-H2O20 New Year Celebration, MGM Grand Conference Center, Las Vegas NV, December 2019

-SINsation New Year Celebration, ARIA West Convention Center, Las Vegas NV, December 2017

Bellagio Conservatory: Harvest Show, Bellagio Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas NV, August 2016

VGK Wedding, Wildhorse Golf Club, Henderson NV, January 2019

Pomp New Year Celebration, ARIA West Convention Center, Las Vegas NV, December 2018

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