After receiving 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. That’s why 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.
This week’s curator is Moe Gram, a visual artist and educator known for her conceptual, colorful, abstract artworks. For this tour, Gram is taking us up to Westminster, where last weekend she and a crew of women and nonbinary artists painted murals for the inaugural Babe Walls Festival.
“I’m still on this Babe Walls high,” she said after the event.
The festival was a weekend of girl power, of women supporting one another and creating murals that blew her away, she said.
“I feel like because of the nature of the mural festival, I just really want to make sure that we highlight these bad*** women.”
Head on out to Westminster this weekend to check out their work. Allow us to guide you.
WHO: Chelsea Lewinski, a well-known Denver street artist best known for her large-scale portraits; Taylor Herzog, an abstract visual artist based in Denver; and Ashley Joon, who paints floral imagery here in Denver
WHERE: 7155 Hooker St.
Gram’s Take: “I think what’s so beautiful about it is, obviously, the artists, because I just fan-girl over that group of ladies so hard. But I think also what I really love about it is that it represents Georgia O’Keeffe as an elder, and it really highlights the way she’s given us this empowerment. You know, she got the acknowledgment that she was this bad*** artist while she was still alive.
“And especially with Babe Walls, I feel like it’s just a great preamble to what you are going to see throughout the mural festival. It’s almost this blessing that’s been given as you start to walk through these beautiful murals done by truly amazing artists…. It really was like Georgia was like our supervisor, overlooking all of us and checking on us and making sure we were feeling her spirit. I can be very spiritual, and I can’t help but feel like it was just a very magical moment.
“In the mural scene, a lot of the biggest walls in a mural festival are oftentimes given to artists who have the most ‘notoriety,’ or, you know, are the most ‘respected.’ There’s almost this hierarchy in the graffiti or mural art scene. But then when you look at this piece… Chelsea Lewinsky is probably one of the more noted graffiti artists or muralists of that group of three girls. Taylor Herzog has recently started her mural journey. And Ashley Joon, this is one of the first times Ashley has painted with spray paint at this large scale. So, I think this element of overcoming fears and obstacles is really apparent in this piece, because for Taylor and Ashley specifically, this is for sure one of the biggest pieces of art they’ve ever done. And when you look at this mural, you would never know it. You would never have any clue!”
WHO: Anna Charney, a Denver native who creates layered optical illusions through her art; and Megan Walker, a painter and tattoo artist who specializes in colorful, elaborate, surreal patterns
WHERE: 7121 Hooker St.
Gram’s Take: “They really blew my mind because it was the first day there at the festival. We hadn’t even got started yet. We were still kind of unpacking the car, and it was like, 7 o’clock in the morning. And they had already sketched out their entire mural, with so much detail already. I couldn’t believe it! I was like, ‘Girls, it is seven o’clock in the morning. How did you do that so fast?’ It was impressive.
“I don’t even know how to describe it, because it’s just this psychedelic explosion of color, and it’s gnarly, and insane. First of all, working with spray paint is definitely a skill to be learned, and it is not an easy skill to be learned. And to have that level of control is… It’s insane! The fact that they were able to create something so meticulous, and so detailed, with that level of precision that they have… like, it’s these spirals and circles and flowers and wild shapes, and everything that they did was just so precise.
“I’m having a hard time talking about it because I can’t wrap my mind around their level of talent and patience. Because, I mean, my work is not like that at all. I am not precise. I’m very whimsical as a creative. And I’m just not down for straight lines. And so to think that they have it in them to have that level of precision and ability to be so detailed… And it’s all of these tiny circles inside of big circles inside of different colors and shapes and strong angles and lines…. I don’t know, just thinking someone did that with spray paint, my brain short-circuits.”
WHO: Kaitlin Orin, an artist who got her start in illustration and graphic design; and Kaitlin Zeismer, a Colorado native whose art frequently features whimsical, anthropomorphic animals
WHERE: 3160 W. 71st Ave.
Gram’s Take: “Both of them created a mural that’s very heavily inspired by graphic design. Kaitlin Orin did the graphic worded writing while Kaitlin Ziesmer did the paintings of the birds and helmets. And they’re birds in motorcycle helmets, which is so silly. And just the whimsy of that, I think, is really funny.
“But truly, I think what makes me love these pieces the most is not just the content of them, but how clean they were able to paint it. Like, it is very, very clean. Their lines are on point, a lot of their negative space is filled by color…. And I think part of why I think this particular mural has a special place in my heart is because it’s directly diagonal from the mural that I did with Grow Love and Tribal Murals, which is Alicia Cardenas. So as I’m painting, all I would have to do is kind of peek out from our building, and I could see their progress. So that was a mural that I became infatuated with from far away…That’s where I was really screaming girl power, for sure.”
WHO: Lindee Zimmer, a local artist who strives to engage under-served communities through her murals; and Olive Moya, our first tour curator and a muralist who specializes in abstract, colorful geometric paintings
WHERE: 7100 Hooker St. The portrait is of Toluwanimi Obiwole, a local Nigerian artist, healer and founder of Palm Wine Collective.
Gram’s Take: “First of all, I have to be very clear: I have a girl crush on Olive Moya. I think she is amazing. So I’m a little biased. Everything that Olive does, I’m so freaking hyped on.
“But I think what I love about this piece specifically is she works in these gigantic blocks of color. And to see her do these big blocks of color in such a large scale… You cannot not be happy when you come through there.
“And then Lindee paints these beautiful portraits of women of color and expresses the spirit of these women in a way where you just feel a sense of pride. And in that specific complex, throughout the mural festival there were these super cute little Black and brown girls riding around, just so stoked on this entire mural festival. And now, every single day when they wake up, they get to see murals painted of women that look like them and their family members. And very rarely do we see these very beautiful representations of women of color in this way. And so for Lindee to do that in that community… I think about those girls who were so excited about this mural festival, and they get to have that level of representation in their own neighborhood at a large scale with these beautiful colors and the juxtaposition of those portraits next to Olive’s big blocks of color and wavy lines….I felt a lot of pride and excitement in their piece, for sure.
“And you know especially me. You know, I’m a Black woman — well, I’m mixed. Black, white, Filipino, brown, you know. And so growing up, it was very rare that you would see these big, beautiful portraits of brown women and women of color. So I guess I have the sentiment that they portrayed, and the way that they did it just gave me a lot of excitement for young girls like my younger self, who probably don’t get to see that all the time.
“I think it was also a part of my ‘happy place,’ because every morning when I was driving through to get to my own mural, that’s, like, one of the first things I would see. And it would just be like, ‘Whoa, color! Everywhere!’ And just, not ever mentally prepared for that gigantic blast of color. So there was the surprise element every day where it was just more and more color layered on.”
WHO: Alexandrea Pangburn, another former curator and the founder of Babe Walls; Sandra Fettingis, a Colorado-based artist known for creating abstract geometric patterns; and Becca Reitz, who works primarily as an illustrator and graphic designer
WHERE: 3033 W. 71st Ave.
Gram’s Take: “First of all, the scale. This piece is just insanely massive. And they were on a lift. It was like a cherry-picker kind of a lift. They kept calling it a boom lift. And so they were just, like, up and out, hanging over the universe. And for me, that’s a level of stress that I personally can’t handle. So seeing them way up in the air like that was just insane.
“And then on top of it, just their colors. The way that their colors and the graphic quality of their work played well together. And I was just so in love with that realism of the tiger next to this very elegant, almost witchy lady, who kind of reminds me of that show Bewitched. It’s just a very beautiful piece.
“And more than anything, I think it’s important to acknowledge like, yes, Sandra and Becca are bad***** for sure, that can’t be discounted. But also, Alexandrea worked on this mural and ran a festival. When I found out she was actually painting… I thought she was just facilitating. And then when I found out she herself was also painting a wall, I was like, ‘What the heck? Are you serious?!’ I don’t know how that’s possible. There’s a certain level of bad***-ness that you have to have to be able to do that. You painted a full mural in less than four days and ran a mural festival, making sure that volunteers had what they needed, making sure artists had what they needed, communicating with property managers… You name it, Alex did it, all in one weekend.
“And I felt like I was fully immersed in painting the mural, and feeling like I couldn’t really step away. And my work is relatively simple, and she makes these very hyper-realistic pieces. So my brain could not fully comprehend how she was able to accomplish that.”
While you’re there…
🌯 Big Mama’s Burritos
WHERE: 3190 W. 72nd Ave.
WHAT: A small, casual spot for affordable Mexican food.
Gram’s take: “There is a mom-and-pop shop who I really want to shout out. That place specifically, they made sure we were fed and taken care of, and I just really appreciate them. It’s quick, it’s affordable, and it’s damn delicious. It is so good. Every morning I got an egg, potato and cheese breakfast burrito with a medium green chili, and it was my favorite. That was my morning ritual for four days.”
WHERE: Subscription-based delivery out of Englewood
WHAT: An independent, subscription-based coffee company that frequently partners with local Denver artists.
Gram’s take: “That’s a woman-owned coffee shop. And every single day, at 6 o’clock, 7 o’clock in the morning, she came with the coffee that she makes herself, and then she also makes a homemade vegan sweet cream that was to die for. So addictive. Any time I saw an extra jar of that vegan sweet cream, I would snatch it because it was so tasty.
“And if you go to her website, she says that her whole thing is about wanting to make sure that she’s enriching our community with coffee and art. So she does a lot of support for artists, specifically women artists.”