While people marched and chanted loudly behind him on Thursday afternoon, artist Kierre Dawkins quietly worked on something just as deafening.
Dawkins’ hands were stained with paint as he worked on a large mural on plywood panels surrounding the base of a statute at Civic Center Park. Dawkins, who is originally from Mississippi but has called Denver home for the last two years, filled his large mural with pop culture and political imagery.
The mural depicts a Black child, framed off-center, appearing concerned, or poised, or perhaps even annoyed, while looking into the distance. The mural’s black background had red paint dripping down from the top, giving the illusion of dripping blood.
“It kind of shows what it’s like to be a Black child in America,” Dawkins said.
His artwork and that of other local Black artists will be displayed at Civic Center Park as part of the Black Love Mural Festival.
The festival was created by Robert Gray, creative director at the Denver-based Rob The Art Museum. Gray called the all-Black mural festival the first of its kind.
“What we’re doing is giving artists different ways to express themselves in a creative way, and really spread the peace and positivity of the Black Lives Matter movement,” Gray said.
He said anytime would have been a good time to put this project together, but he acknowledges it coincides with a moment where the Black Lives Matter movement has been elevated into daily conversations across the country and thousands of people are demonstrating against racism and police violence.
Annie Phillips helped organize the event. She said it was important for people to have healthy outlets for expression. Gray emphasized that Black artists should always be given ways to express themselves, not just “when a Black man gets killed.”
Gray said every artist involved will be paid. Scott Gilmore, deputy manager of Denver Parks and Recreation, worked with organizers to put the event together. Gilmore said the parks department is providing $9,500 for artists and materials.
“These are the type of things we need to do to fill our cities,” Gilmore said.
He said he wanted to work with local artists to try and support their message while trying to discourage additional tagging in the park. He noted the tagging was severe during the first few nights of protests but has since subsided. Gilmore said it will cost about $80,000 to $100,000 to remove graffiti at Civic Center Park.
Gray and Phillips are encouraging people to donate to the event’s GoFund me page to help pay participating artists additional funds. Gray said the entire event was put together in roughly 48 hours. The artwork will be on display through June 30.
“We’re doing what we can,” Gray said. “We’re doing what we can to empower Black voices. We’re super proud to bring this together.”