Mexico-born Denver muralist redefines ‘MAGA’ one garage door at a time

The mononymous Denver artist Charlo is trying to “make alleys great again.”

Charlo G. Walterbach poses with Betsy Atkinson and Nick Evans and their kids, Theo and Darby, in front of Walterbach's mural on the family's garage near Cheesman Park. July 5, 2021.

Charlo G. Walterbach poses with Betsy Atkinson and Nick Evans and their kids, Theo and Darby, in front of Walterbach's mural on the family's garage near Cheesman Park. July 5, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
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To prevent himself from going stir-crazy during the pandemic lockdown, the Denver artist who goes by Charlo decided to paint an outdoor mural. But he needed a surface. So he posted a request in the Nextdoor neighborhood app. Someone offered their alleyway.

“I have always wanted to do a mural,” he said. “One person came to the front and was like ‘I have a garage door. It’s black — if you want to use that.’ ”

The result turned drab into dazzle.

One of the murals in Charlo G. Walterbach's "Make Alleys Great Again" series on a garage door near Cheesman Park. July 5, 2021.

One of the murals in Charlo G. Walterbach's "Make Alleys Great Again" series on a garage door near Cheesman Park. July 5, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Charlo describes his mostly black or white designs as joyful, full of surprises and abundant. Abundance refers to the many lines and shapes he uses to fill space. But now having done more than 20 such garage murals, it is also true that Charlo’s work itself is abundant.

Charlo also works English and Spanish words into his art. Like allegria.

“It sounds a lot like ‘allergy’ I know! Some people confuse that in English,” he said. “In Spanish, it means ‘experiencing joy’ and this word I used as the main theme of one of the garage doors.”

He was inspired to include allegria when he saw the smiles on the faces of the family whose door he was painting.

Darby Evans points to her favorite part of the mural Charlo G. Walterbach painted on her family's garage near Cheesman Park. July 5, 2021.

Darby Evans points to her favorite part of the mural Charlo G. Walterbach painted on her family's garage near Cheesman Park. July 5, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Charlo calls the project “Make Alleys Great Again” — MAGA for short — a play on former President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, Make America Great Again.

“I’m trying to take a little bit of that meaning away and give it a new one,” Charlo says.

Charlo G. Walterbach stands by one of the murals in his "Make Alleys Great Again" series on a garage near Cheesman Park. July 5, 2021.

Charlo G. Walterbach stands by one of the murals in his "Make Alleys Great Again" series on a garage near Cheesman Park. July 5, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Charlo was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico. His mother instilled in him a sense of gratitude, which is why words and phrases that convey thankfulness also appear in his work.
“She taught me to always be grateful and that that was going to be a way to get far in life.”

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