Review – Growing Pains at CRUSH Could Signify More Successes Than Failures

CRUSH, as a festival, did lots of growing up. Were the artists compensated for the first time, but the experience for both participants and attendees felt organized, planned and put together than in years ago. Proof of the maturity was discovered within their unified branding, together with the colored blotches of spray paint that clutter their Facebook page and posters around RiNo suspended from the months leading up to the festival. CRUSH feels to be an independent collecting of graffiti and street performers. Plus it’s not possible. The negatives seem more like pains than dealbreakers, although there are positives and drawbacks to this type of expansion.

We’ve broken it down into four sections — the artists, the expertise, successes and concerns — in order to touch on more than just one of those facets of CRUSH that can determine its future at Denver.

READ: [PHOTOS] What You Missed at CRUSH 2018

The Artists

Musicians Lindee Zimmer and Nomad Clan. Photo from Brittany Werges

CRUSH started as a collective of writers in 2010growing until 2013 when unexpectedly the participating artists surfaced in numbers. That trend has continued annually since, ranging to more than 70 artists from less than 20. It was about precisely exactly the same moment — at 2013 — if road artists and muralists were added to the roster than graffiti writers. Though CRUSH started as a graffiti writers festival, most would agree that the addition of street artists and muralists was crucial to the success of the occasion. Street artists dominated the festival, making the most enviable and ‘headlining’ walls in RiNo like Shepard Fairey around Denver Central Market. Some of the leaders of graffiti in Denver have experienced mounting discouragement about this reality and doubled down on their grudges following Fairey and his group completed their inclusion into the festival. For those not heavily involved with the graffiti writing scene, the attraction of a big-name artist like Fairey may have been the only reason though once they had been in the thick of it their attention was attracted by many other musicians, that they attended the festival.

For the nine years that CRUSH has occurred, it’s been mostly a boy’s team. Men dominate the worlds of street art and graffiti granted but the simple fact that the festival started in the previous ten years rather than at the ’ 90s or even early 2000s raises some concerns about its diversity. Some may argue that the small number of women who take part in CRUSH is a result of the proportions of the genders from the area at large, yet this year lacked a decent number of female musicians. The triumphs of the year’s festival, even in the event of gender equality, added Anna Charney returning to paint the half-wall from the Denver Central Market parking lot along with the double-feature murals around the face of The Ramble Hotel from Fort Collins celebrity Lindee Zimmer and UK-based duo Nomad Clan. The collapse was that a large part of the alleys conducted heavy which makes it feel almost and segregated like the addition of women was thrown at the front of the festival but was noticeable that the deeper you reached.

The Experience

Among those name placards before a mural. Photo from Brittany Werges.

To be able to better join the audiences to their artists as an attendee of the festival this year, the event organizers had enhanced a couple facets. These came following the RiNo Art District and Project 16 (a bunch out of Canada) took over the organizing of CRUSH, less than six weeks prior to the onset of the festival this year. The Canadian group helps operate Station 16 — the road art gallery that opened its second location in The Source hotel — and a mural festival in Montreal.

The improvement that is most notable was the inclusion of name plaques with short descriptions of the artist in front of the own wall. In previous years it could be impossible to figure out who was painting a mural if you didn’t catch them painting in action. Together with the name figures, not only did attendees have the chance to view (and label on social media) the artist in any given point throughout the week — even in the middle of night or early morning when artists were not present — in addition they didn’t even have to interrupt the artist to get very basic details. Rather, questions introduced to artists might be asked using a opinion or idea — something that artists appreciate as they are from the zone” while.

Aside from the name figures, the organizers made a marked maphanded those out maps in a variety of places, posted that map from big format in the CRUSH parking lot and included a guided path to follow. There were still plenty of times throughout the week that attendees were lost or unable to adhere to the map (that may be the fault of those attendees rather than the map) but the sheer presence of a map together with artist information is a marked improvement from previous years.

Experiencing CRUSH this year was different since they framed the daily painting because they called them. From workshops directed by a number of those musicians, in which participants had a twist in chalking stenciling and wheatpastingeach hour was filled to do. In that manner, CRUSH felt like a festival. But in other waysit felt just like the additional programming has been a distraction from what CRUSH has always been around — witnessing the production of graffiti and street art in real time on pragmatic walls.


A tribute piece created by artist Gamma Gallery. Photo from Amanda Piela

If it comes down to this, the complaints about the modifications surrounding CRUSH have to do with the changes happening in RiNo — mainly, gentrification. Gentrification is a subject that has to be thought about and discussed out in the open instead of closed doors, which makes CRUSH a perfect setting for a discussion. A number of the artists that first started CRUSH have undergone firsthand the consequences of displacement or unfair financial practices in that neighborhood. Plus they aren’t afraid to share their opinions about it.

During a board Ratio Beerworks — one of those parts of programming — performers and activist came together to talk about the part along with gentrification that art and musicians play at the problem. The subject eventually contributed to CRUSH. Street artist Jolt clarified his conflicted feelings about participating in the annual event. On the flip side, he was grateful that the artists got compensated. However, on the other, he was frustrated that funds and efforts were focused on artists like Shepard Fairey while local artists like himself were becoming underpaid. There was also the concern about that the organization needs to make sure and road art can be utilized as “ background for gentrification ” that commercialization and advancement stay out of their marketing of CRUSH. In particular, there were frustrations that infamous RiNo developer Kenneth Wolf was quoted from the brochure for CRUSH, although locals artist had been excluded.

Another concern revolves around the newest parties of CRUSH. Even though they provided a much better attendee adventure, it felt in certain points like the festival would be an instrument for many organizations. The addition of Brighton Boulevard, as an instance, with The Source and Zeppelin Station — two areas that have significant ties to Project 16 along with Station 16 out of Canada, made it feel as though the Zeppelins were directing the festival to improve business for that component of RiNo and subsequently, their own businesses.


Towering over five stories high, this mural by Spanish duo Pichiavo juxtaposes classical Roman sculpture such as some guest tags by CRUSH artists. Photo from Cori Anderson

All the walls are finished — only there are still a few artists currently working in their pieces — so now that the spray paint has dried we could truly see the mark that CRUSH has made on RiNo this season. Plus it’s a big one. For starters, one of the major successes of the year’s festival would be the rise. Together with the change in parties, get a artist and businesses that had not been allowed to give a wall were allowed to cover a sponsor fee. This also disperse the footprint of CRUSH into a whopping 30 blocks of RiNo, such as Brighton Boulevard.

And although a number of these artists may have concerns about varying levels of payment one of the musicians, with a few of the best paid stipends going into the invited international musicians, it’s ’s tough to turn our noses up at payment to the artists when it never occurred before. This “background of gentrification” looks a good deal cuter as soon as the artists that are currently making that background go uncompensated. Stipends to artists is a significant start.

Although businesses were allowed to sponsor the festival and supply walls for the artists this year, yet another success is that the businesses (except for one exception) did not interfere with the production or conception of their murals. For weekly, the artists had been allowed to express themselves at the alleys, around the walls as well as on the ground without much intrusion from the business world — even a reprieve from the world of art art. Whether parts of the festival felt not, the take-back of all RiNo from the artist neighborhood felt even invigorating and normal.

In the end, the skill expressed at CRUSH this year exceeded what we’ve noticed before. In the mural collaboration between CRUSH founder Robin Munro and Mexico-born artist MPEK into the life-like portrait by Patrick Kane McGregor along with Mike Giant framed with a geometric history by Jason Garcia, the talent that CRUSH proceeds to entice to RiNo is. Among the murals that came out of this year’s festival had been performed by Spanish duo Pichiavo on 32nd between Walnut and Blake Streets. This duo may have won celebrity ’s choice for the best mural, if you can find judging classes in CRUSH. It is going to also place CRUSH on more on the map, only because Pichiavo draws attention. But lots of the local artists demonstrated their worth as well, changing alleys into a spot that feels like its own high-tech artwork that was displaying — and yes, that includes a number of the graffiti.

Editor’s note: the writer operates The Street Art Network that was a sponsor of Crush. 

Added reporting and writing from Brittany Werges.