How One Woman Helped Commission 300 Murals in Denver

In 2018, the Denver Public Art program raised its collection by almost 30 percent, commissioning over 60 murals throughout the Urban Arts Fund (UAF). The total amount of murals from the collection currently totals at just over 300. Even though this is a monumental undertaking that sounds like it took a full staff to achieve, it was all coordinated and curated by just one woman — Mary Valdez. Valdez works under the Denver Arts & Venues division of the Denver Public Art app and started hammering murals through the UAF in 2009. In the years since, Valdez’s reputation in the road art community in Denver has blossomed since she curates town ’s walls such as a gallerist.

READ: Public Art Programs to Look Out For in 2019 

After Valdez first began thinking up the UAF, she came across some resistance from members of this community, historic societies and the government. Individuals who supported Valdez advised her to “call [the prospective musicians ] aerosol artists and muralists” instead of street artists, as the latter tag may have attracted the incorrect attention. In the very first year of the UAF, seven projects have been financed. Last year there were 100 applicants along with Valdez and her steering committee approved 25 jobs that amounted to over 60 murals. “It has gone from phoning local artists [and asking them ] to becoming national and worldwide ones applying for it,” Valdez commented.

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Regardless of what some people may believe, RiNo is not the only area in Denver with murals, street graffiti and art. The UAF is accountable for a great number of murals past the boundaries of RiNo along with also the regions tend to have a high speed of graffiti. From the generally accepted terms, graffiti is a type of lettering — even though it’s been tied to vandalism since graffiti writers often practice in illegal ways. The mission supporting the UAF and other public art programs that the city runs would be to suppress vandalism, and that often involves graffiti.

“We believe if we produce works of art which we’re able to help curb graffiti and vandalism,” Valdez clarified. Because of this creed, the majority of these UAF murals can be found in former graffiti hotspots, such as the Cherry Creek bike trail.  “There are still a great deal of areas in Denver which are getting hit by graffiti and I think our murals actually make an essence of beautification and [provide] somewhere for a person to experience artwork,” Valdez said. “It attracts a brightness of the artistic kingdom to the forefront. To liven up daily. It’s lively. ”

Kawaguchi working on among his 2018 UAF murals.

Among those jobs from 2018 which can be found on the bike trail is by local artist Casey Kawaguchi. Though it was originally planned as only 1 mural, after Kawaguchi began on it, he and Valdez agreed that two more would make it much better. The location is under a bridge between Lawrence and Larimer around the bike trail, where three large and wide support beams sit in the water from the creek. Kawaguchi spent a few days on each mural, sporting gators from the cold creek waters to be able to resist the temperature. It’so on a crowded spot along the bike trail, and although Kawaguchi stated it was a calm experience, in addition, he said the amount of curious onlookers and visitors. “I’d like to thank everybody for the excellent response to this particular piece,” he remarked.

Another project that accumulated even more murals than Kawaguchi’s happened at Cheltenham Elementary on West Colfax. It was the fourth in a series called The Raw Project — which originates in Florida pairs and — world-class road artists with basic schools which could use a little excess inspiration. The UAF financed the 3 additional elementary schools in Denver in 2017 and accepted Cheltenham last year, securing walls for such renowned artists like Shepard Fairey, Findac, Kevin Ledo, Jazz Guetta and Birdo.

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READ: Meet the International Artists Who Painted Denver Elementary Schools for Free 

Although a number of these UAF murals garner care since the artists are internationally recognizedothers are important since they give local artists an opportunity to paint enormous walls. DINKC‘s 2018 UAF mural supposes that since it is his largest mural to date and sets the stage for what we could expect from the road artist in the next several years. Situated at the corner of Mariposa and 8th Avenue on the Lincoln Park Lounge, the mural covers three walls of the slender, rectangular building. “Mainly the greatest thing for me was being able to paint something within my style on a public space, inside a wonderful community,” commented DINKC concerning the undertaking. “Any and each public artwork piece is totally free publicity/promotion, you can’t know who’s going to see it or what it can cause. I do this full time… therefore I always attempt to give it my all especially when I have the funds to do so and also the location trusts me to do whatever I’d like. ”

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All artists who are interested in painting murals about Denver are invited to apply, although Valdez’s schedule was nonstop for the last few decades, she welcomes more candidates all the time. “As an Hispanic woman and someone in this position for quite a while, I want to bring more diverse people into our assortment,” she commented. The application procedure occurs from February to March (for the next year) with notifications sent from artists at the end of April. Projects typically begin during the warmer summer months and then last until the close of the year (or as long as weather allows). Valdez manages each of the projects herself, even though she retains help from a steering committee (who she hand-selects), and therefore puts her essence into each mural financed by Denver Public Art. As the future of public artwork and murals in Denver advances, it will be hard to ignore Valdez’s effect.

Valdez in front of a mural she commissioned in 2018 from Elle Street Art. Photo from Amanda Piela

So as to keep current on all of Denver Public Art’so projects, see their website where you can search for certain artwork, put together your personal guided tour and learn more about each artist. 

For those interested in applying, go to this website

All photography from Cori Anderson, unless otherwise noticed. 

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