Social justice, cultural pride, majestic animals, history, fantasy…you name it…all have inspired an explosion of Denver’s street murals throughout the town. Denver’s walls tell so many incredible stories, but many are down side streets, back lots and alleyways? You may be asking where is the best place to go, and what can I see? Denver I Love is here to help! Also, be sure to check out the 4 recommended street art tours happening this weekend.
WHERE TO GO
There really isn’t anywhere in Denver these days where you won’t find some kind of free and amazing street art. However, like a ripe pomegranate, there are some particularly fruitful pockets you will find as you peel back from the main streets and tuck down the back alley.
Perhaps Denver’s best known location for interesting street art is the River North Art District (RiNo) and the neighboring Historic Five Points. Creative minds have been expressing themselves on the buildings here for years.
This month marked the 10th anniversary of CRUSH WALLS, Denver’s one week street art extravaganza that brings over 100 artists together to paint the town red…and blue, yellow, orange and every other color under the sun. Crush Walls, founded by artist Robin Munro, stands for Creative Rituals Under Social Harmony – which is truly the perfect description!
When you talk about Denver’s street murals, Crush Walls is at the epicenter! Over 100,000 Denverites attend Crush Walls, and hundreds of thousands more people flock to RiNo after the festival just to see the finished walls.
DENVER ARTS DISTRICT: SANTA FE AVENUE
Denver’s Arts District on Santa Fe is home to some of the city’s greatest historic architecture. Without losing sight of its significant past and treasured architecture, Santa Fe is now a modern hub for art, theater and dance. As one of the first arts district in the state, Santa Fe is home to many important arts and cultural organizations like the Colorado Ballet, Center for Visual Arts, Museo de los Americas and Su Teatro. Thus, it is fitting that the buildings showcase outside some of the creative expression and cultural celebration taking place inside.
One of the first Denver I Love stories on the books was an interview with Kyle Zeppelin. Zeppelin touched a bit on his Dad, Mickey Zeppelin’s vision in developing parts of lower downtown (LoDo) and his intention for LODO to showcase artists, provide space for creative expression, and celebrate the historic architecture and buildings that are some of the city’s oldest and greatest treasures. Even with big new projects like the Dairy Block and Union Station’s redevelopment, LoDo remains true to being a haven for artistic design and style.
BAKER NEIGHBORHOOD/SOUTH BROADWAY
From 1st Avenue south several miles along Broadway, the walls and alleyways of the historic Baker Neighborhood show off an eclectic expression of murals, graffiti and art emerging out of the woodwork, brick and concrete. Along with favorite vintage clothing stores like the Buffalo Exchange, top restaurants, bars and coffee shops, you will find many of the business names and concepts featured on their exterior walls.
MEET THE ARTISTS
The best things about Denver’s street murals are the mind blowing ideas and creative souls behind the work. Everyone has a story and these walls CAN talk! The number of great artistic story tellers in Denver is astounding. Here are 5 in particular that you might want to look out for.
Thomas Evans a.k.a. Detour
I met Detour while he was painting this larger than life John Coltrane mural on the outside wall of the jazz club Nocturne. Detour uses his art to connect music to fine arts and urban culture through portraits that tackle issues ranging from serious statements to light-hearted celebration. As one of Denver’s most sought after artists, his portraits can be seen on trucks, buildings and galleries throughout the city, United States and even the world. During the Crush Walls Street art festival, Detour actually created THREE murals in one week! Find them at Nocturne, 32nd and Curtis and Red Line Contemporary Art Center.
Markahm SK Maes, a.k.a. Shitty Kitten and DINKC
Meeting Shitty Kitten opened my eyes to how absolutely brilliant this man is! This year, Shitty Kitten and DINKC, another uber talented cartoon-character like artist, decided to collaborate on a mural for Crush Walls in the alley of EXDO. The two had never worked together before and had no plan for what they would create up to the morning they started painting. They let their creativity and incredible minds lead as they picked up the paint cans and started spraying. I can’t imagine there are many people in the world who could do that! Right?
Meeg Conroy, a.k.a. Miss Meeg
Miss Meeg is a local artist and one of the great veterans of the Crush Walls festival. Her most recent creation stands apart as one of the few painted on glass windows instead of walls. Carefully taking into account the exterior natural light of the daytime and the inside florescent lights of the night, Miss Meeg is an artistic genius when it comes to painting animals. Keeping with the furry friend theme from last year, she replaced her adorable bunnies with a few sly foxes keeping watch through the windows of the Denver Central Market.
Kotatron the Triceratops
The story I heard unfold for Kotatron’s Crush Walls piece was one so sad and senseless, it inspired many coats of paint that may never be fully understand. Two days before the team of Kotatron the Triceratops, a.k.a. the Elite Mech Forch (EMA), started painting their Crush Walls masterpiece for 2019 a tragedy took place. The artist, “Fever,” who was supposed to be up on that ladder was killed. The rest of the crew painted on. The wall serves as a memorial and tribute to a lost friend and crazy talented mind who was taken way to soon. Seeing these guys turn their pain and loss into a work of art was a total privilege to see.
I haven’t had the opportunity to meet Gregg Deal yet, but I really want to! When it comes to Denver’s meaningful street art, the name Gregg Deal is top of the list! I follow his instagram and you should too! Check it out @greggdeal. Deal’s intricate Denver street murals have many layers that make you stop, think and ask questions that don’t even come to mind before you stand in front of his art. They are well planned out, totally unique and meaningful. I saw a video of Deal speaking about art, and his words are totally stuck in my head:
Art is about disrupting space; it is about taking people to task; it is about raising questions; it is about bringing up the moral fortitude of our communities and whether or not our communities are realizing what their moral obligation is and realizing if there are problems in their communities that they need to recognize and make fix.
– Gregg Deal, Crush Walls 2019, as seen on the Crush Walls Instagram
With hundreds of talented artists putting their mark on Denver’s walls, Denver is elevated to new heights because of the talent and ideas each person brings to surface. Some other artists behind Denver’s street murals are:
- Pat Milbery, one of Denver’s most famous street artists responsible for creating the Love this City Campaign;
- Mpek36 who I had the pleasure of seeing in action in the alleyway of EXDO, and was in total awe of his use of explosive color and graffiti to transform the ordinary to the extraordinary;
- Danny Starr who is an accomplished oil and water color painter who most recently created an inspiring statement behind Denver Central Market for the local brand Be A Good Person; and
- Tracey Weil @Weil Works for creating something totally out of the box with her 3D street art. Weil’s colorful designs wrap the street poles and up the game in Denver’s alleyways.
I realize there are dozens of more incredibly talented and notable street artists in Denver I’ve yet to meet. I can’t wait until Crush Walls 2020!
DENVER I LOVE RECOMMENDATION: ELEVATE WITH DOORS OPEN DENVER STREET ART TOURS HAPPENING THIS WEEKEND ONLY
This weekend presents one of the best opportunities to learn more and dive deep into Denver’s street art. Doors Open Denver showcases architecture and design all over Denver.
Every year Doors Open Denver features a particular neighborhood or area of the City in a special way. The 2019 Doors Over Denver is planning to highlight the Santa Fe Arts District and nearby neighborhoods of Los Almas and Lincoln Park.
There are dozens of tours throughout the rest of Denver as well – from the most historic buildings to the newest most modern architecture.
Among the 110 insider tours on the schedule, at least 4 are geared toward Denver’s street murals and graffiti. Here they are:
1. La Alma Rebel Tour
Visit the murals of La Alma/Lincoln Park with Cori Anderson, Founder, the Street Art Network. September 21 at5 pm and September 22 at 10 am.
2. Chicano Murals Tour
Explore the birth of the mural movement in Colorado from La Alma/Lincoln Park to the Art District on Santa Fe with a special focus on the rich Chicano cultural heritage spanning from the early settlements to the Civil Rights Movement to to today. The Chicano Murals Tour will be guided by Lucha Martinez and is 60 minutes. September 21 at 9 am to
3. Denver Graffiti Tour
This 90 minute walking tour will explore Denver’s street murals in RiNo with Lauren Cross of Denver Graffiti Tour, LLC. September 21 at 2 and 4 pm
4. Between Us
The Downtown Denver Alleyways Project is a guided walking tour of the downtown Denver Alleyways with the Project Program Director, Curator and participating Artists. September 21 at 11 am and 2pm; September 22 at 11 am.
All DOD tours are $12; and you need to register online. Click here for tickets.
If you have a minute…shoot me a picture or info on your favorite Denver street murals!