In the last few weeks, we’ve received several requests from you, our readers, for recommendations on how to find the coolest street art in Denver. It became clear to us that Denverites have an appetite for art that can be enjoyed in a safe, socially-distanced way. So today, we’re launching a new series on public art in Denver. Every Friday, we’ll be dropping a walking, driving or biking tour of Denver’s street art, each curated by a different prominent local muralist.
Our first curator is Olive Moya, a CRUSH Walls artist originally from LA. Moya’s attraction to vivid colors and narratives told through abstract imagery is evident not only in her own work, but in her picks below. Take a stroll down Larimer and check them out. And, if you have time, swing by some of her bonus favorites scattered around the city.
WHERE: The parking lot south of 2737 Larimer St.
WHO: Hiero Veiga, Chelsea Lewinski, Robin “Dread” Munro, Giovannie “Just” Dixon, Connor Ray, and “Pulp”
WHAT: This wall was tagged with the words “RIP George Floyd” during the racial justice protests earlier this summer. According to Munro’s Instagram post, this group of artists was commissioned by Cultivator Ads not to cover the tag, but rather to incorporate it into a new work of art. The team of artists decided to add the slogan “Be A Good Person” in honor of that brand’s founder, Darian Simon, and his girlfriend Isabella Thallas, who were shot last June. Thallas died on the scene.
“You might be asking yourself what these two events have in common?” Munro posted. “They are a direct reflection of how this system doesn’t serve us all equally. Why is it that a black man can be murdered in the streets by police with little to no punishment? Yet when a white man armed to the teeth guns down two young people he’s safely apprehended? These conversations intersect in the streets, and this is all part of a bigger picture and a problem that needs to be addressed until we find peaceful resolve. So we wanted to honor the victims of these violent crimes by sharing space for them both.”
MOYA’S TAKE: “I just love that they left up the original protest graffiti and worked around it. I feel like that was such a cool idea. I love that that’s how the people that commissioned it felt, because it just made something awesome. That’s kind of the whole thing about collaborations. I mean, I guess it can go very wrong. But sometimes you go in a direction you maybe would have never gone, and it creates something really, really awesome.”
WHERE: 3003 Larimer, in front of the Oz Architecture building
WHO: Denver-based artist and educator Moe Gram, alongside PlatteForum’s Art Lab interns
WHAT: “Our Voice, Our Views, Our Vote”: Created as part of the 2019 CRUSH Walls festival, this mural is designed to encourage young people to use their voices and vote.
MOYA’S TAKE: “She’s one of my friends. We always joke that we’re different versions of each other. We found each other when she was painting this wall, and she was like, ‘I feel like we’re on the same wavelength with our art.’ Like, mine is a more controlled version of her work, and hers is more of a free version.
“But she always always has these awesome concepts. And this one, specifically, about getting young people out to vote. She’s a teacher, and she’s just really vocal about that whole thing. And she had a show at Alto, and she talked a lot about being mixed race and how that’s affected her life. She’s very vocal about a lot of issues that she really believes in. And I feel like that’s a big part of why murals are so powerful, because you have this huge audience. The audience in a gallery or museum is limited because not everybody has access to those spaces or feels comfortable in those spaces, whereas murals are like, you’re just walking by on your way home, or you’re out with some friends, and you’re experiencing art. So I like that she uses that to say the things that she believes in.”
WHERE: 3006 B Larimer St., outside the m. Romero Gallery
WHO: John “RUMTUM” Hastings and “Rather Severe,” aka Travis Czekalski and Jon Stommel
WHAT: A colorful explosion of tropical flowers, palm trees, shapes and clouds.
MOYA’S TAKE: “I think it’s mainly the colors and how trippy it is. I just remember seeing them painting it, and I just got so excited. I don’t know, I think it’s just the colors. I’m a colorful person. And just the complexity of all the shapes.”
WHERE: 3004 Larimer, on the side of Dateline Gallery
WHO: You’ve probably seen Koko Bayer’s #projectspreadhope hearts all over the city, but she’s also known for her wheat-pasting technique and for incorporating photos by her grandfather, esteemed photographer Herbert Bayer, into her own art.
WHAT: A grey scale, wheat-pasted mashup of aspen trees and facial imagery borrowed from her grandfather’s work.
MOYA’S TAKE: “She was showing me some wheat-pasting things, and she had an old print of that one. And I had never realized that that piece is like a mosaic of tiny tiles. And that’s what I love about her work in general. People don’t really understand wheat-pasting a lot of the time. Like, you see it and you’re like, What is that? And you kind of have to go up close and be like, ‘Oh that’s tiles!’ And then you’re like, ‘Oh, no, that’s not tiles. That’s paper!’ And I like those moments where it has such a big impact.
“And I love that her work is so influenced by her grandfather. When someone comes from the family of a creative, and how that plays into their work, it’s really interesting to me, how people get influenced just from childhood, or how they grew up, and those things come out in their work… So it’s cool that she uses so much of his imagery and like re-appropriates it to be her own.”
While you’re there:
🍷 The Denver Central Market
WHERE: 2669 Larimer St.
WHAT: Stop for a bite or a drink from one of the 11 vendors featured in this indoor marketplace. You can also take it outside to picnic tables, each of which has been painted by a different CRUSH artist and features a link to a playlist created by that artist.
MOYA’S TAKE: “I don’t know exactly how it works, but there’s a thing on top of the table that says who the artist is, and then you can order the drink that they like. We picked out drinks from the menu, so you can order the Olive Moya drink, or the Ashley Joon drink, or whatever. And we all made playlists. It’s like maybe a link to a playlist of the music that we like or are interested in right now. So that’s kind of fun — you can social distance and be outside and experience cool art on the table!”
🎨 Dateline Gallery
WHERE: 3004 Larimer St.
WHAT: A contemporary art space that showcases emerging artists.
MOYA’S TAKE: “Most galleries are like, you know, super white walls, and ‘everybody-be-quiet,’ and very, very fancy. You’re conditioned — especially in art school — to believe that that’s the goal, to get into one of those. And I would love that! That would be amazing! But at the same time, you do know that if the goal is for everyone to view art and feel comfortable, a lot of times those galleries aren’t very good at that. So it’s a Catch-22.
“And they’re just more, like, ground level- like, in the more ‘coming-up’ art world, I guess, and show people that are not as established, maybe, but are making some really amazing things. I don’t know this to be true, but it feels to me like they’re really supportive of artists making different things and showing people that have real intellectual concepts and meaning behind their work. And they’re willing to go outside the box a little bit. And I just respect them as a gallery.”
📖 Shop at MATTER
WHERE: 2134 Market St.
WHAT: A bookshop, art supplies store and letterpress workshop.
MOYA’S TAKE: “It’s the god**** best. On Thursdays — well, I don’t know anymore because of COVID. But they do open letterpress where they print stuff and you can be there and ask questions and see what they’re doing. And that’s really, really fun, because I haven’t letter pressed since art school because that stuff’s expensive, and most people don’t have access to that.
“The guy is so nice. And he knows a lot about everything he does. And he’s an awesome designer… I went to just go to the letter pressing with my friend, and then we got talking and then I almost bought pretty much everything there. And then one time I went in with my son, and he was so sweet. He just got some color pencils and some paper and a stool and let him draw and brought out this cool, like — they also do woodcut stuff — so he brought out this cool woodcut alphabet puzzle. And then he talked me into like a bunch of typography books because I love type. I mean, he didn’t have to do much to talk me into it. It’s what I wanted anyway!”
WHERE: 440 17th St., in an alley between Glenarm Pl. and Tremont St.
WHO: Max “Witty Banterism” Kauffman
WHAT: A nine-story mural in reds, whites and blues built into the corner of a parking garage
MOYA’S TAKE: “I haven’t seen this one in person, but I wanted to put it in because I love it so much. I don’t have much about why I liked it except that I just immediately liked it. Probably the colors. I also love seeing murals in spaces where there’s all these obstacles, where it’s not just a flat wall. Especially with my work being abstract and kind of flowy. There’s a lot of movement in it. I love to see when murals can use unconventional spaces.
“Especially in that area of the city. It’s so corporate-feeling and not inviting. There isn’t much of that kind of stuff down there, so it’s definitely a nice surprise to just be driving and be like, ‘Oh, yeah, that looks nice!'”
WHERE: Cherry Creek Trail, at approximately Speer Blvd. and Market St.
WHO: Jon Pucci. Pucci draws inspiration from outdoor activity and uses his art to address social issues.
WHAT: A depiction of African-American bicyclist Major Taylor. In the mural, Taylor is biking, leaning into the wind as white ribbons bearing a Taylor quote wrap around him and billow behind him: “I pray they will carry on in spite of that dreadful monster prejudice and with patience, courage, fortitude and perseverance, achieve success for themselves.”
MOYA’S TAKE: “I immediately thought it was the coolest thing ever. I love his line work. I also love that he uses his platform to show Major Taylor, someone maybe a lot of people don’t know about- because we don’t care about black people who succeed, I guess… I don’t know. I certainly didn’t know about him, unfortunately. But it was cool because after that, I looked him up. And I like that he took that moment on the bike path to honor him… And it just looks really bad***.”
WHERE: 1915 E. Colfax Ave., on the side of Ready Temporary Services
WHO: Thomas “Detour” Evans and Hiero Veiga
WHAT: Evans and Veiga collaborated on this portrait of George Floyd as part of their Spray Their Name initiative. The campaign is taking them to cities all over the country, where they collaborate with other artists to amplify and celebrate voices that have been silenced by painting portraits Black and brown victims of police violence.
MOYA’S TAKE: “I really do love the George Floyd one. I know that that’s being talked about a lot right now, but Detour and Hiero together… their styles together are so cool. To have half of the face really colorful, and half of the face more natural looking… I just feel like that portrait turned out really, really nice.”
WHERE: Weathervane Cafe, 1725 E. 17th; Grandma’s House, 1710 S. Broadway
WHO: We Were Wild, the collaborative project of artist Meredith Feniak and photographer Risa Friedman
WHAT: Delicate paste-up collage reproductions of Friedman’s photography
MOYA’S TAKE: “I’m obsessed with it because they’re so quiet and special. And it’s not like a big wall. It’s not even a big, coherent piece. It’s little pieces delicately placed on the wall…I saw their work, and they can just open your mind up to be like, ‘There’s all these possibilities of how to make things, and they don’t have to be nine stories tall to be special!’ And then they talk about how they like how the wall changes, like when someone will graffiti over it. As a muralist, you kind of have less of a hangup about permanence, because you know it’s just gonna get painted over or changed up. That’s just how it is when it exists out in the world. It’s not in a special air conditioned room all the time…It depends on what it is, but I think it’s kind of a cool thing because in a way, the community owns the work.”
WHERE: 1201 Cherokee St., outside of Dulce Vida
WHO: Michael “Birdcap” Roy, an artist from Mississippi
WHAT: A cartoonish depiction of Elvis, a fish and some barbecued ribs that call back to the artist’s time living in Memphis.
MOYA’S TAKE: “It’s a very specific style. I just love his colors. I also like funny stuff. The work I used to make before my brain just kind of switched…well, I just gradually kind of floated towards abstract. But before that, I was making illustrations, and it always had something to do with humor. So when things are funny, I totally connect with them. I don’t know if he’s trying to be funny, but it’s just kind of goofy looking in general. Like, this Fish’s eyes are like going in opposite ways.”
WHERE: August route TBA
WHO: Multiple Artists
WHAT: This collaborative effort from K Contemporary Gallery Denver and Athena Project brings murals to you. A driver drives a “mobile billboard” (essentially a truck painted on either side with different artworks) through Denver, prioritizing neighborhoods that have been hit the hardest by COVID-19. The partnership formed last spring as a way to make art safe and accessible and to spread hope and color to Denver’s communities during the pandemic.
MOYA’S TAKE: “It’s like a driving mural, which is so cool. But that, to me, is special because I knew I wanted to paint murals since I was halfway through art school, but I wasn’t like all the other street artists. I could not just roll up and do something without being afraid of what would happen. So for my senior thesis, I made canvas murals that could be rolled up. And I would roll them up and take them to places like the Santa Monica parking structure or whatever, and I would hang it outside and then I would walk down the street and just stand there and start talking to people and try to see what people think about it, or what their experience was with art. A lot of them never thought about art that hard before.
“And so they’re basically doing the same thing, like just rolling up the murals and bringing them places. And I just think that’s such a cool idea to engage everybody and make them think about art in a different context. And I think that just gets people to think. Like the fact that it’s on there means it’s important, right? Why is someone literally spending money and time to drive a piece of art around? What is the purpose of it?”