Explosions of color emerge against the industrial back splash of the city. Denver is undergoing a street-art revolution. Inspired by Banksy and other street artists with purpose, sanctioned murals are blooming all over town. Graffiti is raw artistic expression that can transform the practical into the spectacular.
Street art culture has come a long way from its taboo roots. It is an “illegal” art form, evoking thoughts of renegade Rembrandts and criminal Picassos. It’s no wonder that graffiti has evolved into a powerful political and social statement. In one sentence: If you don’t want us to write on walls, stop building them.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be exploring the best graffiti Denver has to offer.
The first place on my list is the Santa Fe Art District. This entire neighborhood in south Denver is a diamond in the rough. It is the artists Mecca and offers inspiration at every turn. Proof that graffiti sub-culture is not just accepted in the Mile High city, but praised.
The Santa Fe Art District
The area between 1st and 10th on Santa Fe known as the Art District boasts some of the most unique graffiti in the state. Most pieces are done by local artists who work in the studios lining the street. All types of private studios can be found—from high art to living art—within this 9 block stretch.
This abundance of studios means that the building owners encourage the paintings. Approval is a God send for street artists. Instead of unsanctioned graffiti that gets painted over, the pieces are constantly being added to. This layering of new and old street art is what makes the Art District so unique. Murals, wheat pastes, tags, photographs, and quotes line alley ways and climb building walls.
Some are graphic inspired, like this brilliant George W. Bush/Mickey Mouse homage. It reads more like a political statement on capitalism than street art. It also illuminates the act of graffiti as a form of protest. The complexity, striking colors, and use of new and old styles all add to the pieces meaning. I actually stared at this painting for a few hours, editing the photo, before I saw the birds layered in the background. It is haunting and somehow light-hearted in rhetoric. The same brilliant series of artists have covered the entire building with stunning, life-like portraits.
As you continue down each block, the graffiti contradicts itself in style and meaning. Some messages are urgent and political, while other tags are minimalist in design. I love this area because every artist’s perspective is accounted for.
Wondering when the best time is to visit the Art District? Check out the studio open-door evening First Friday. It lands on July 5th of this month. The Art District galleries each have their own themed shows and open doors to the public beginning around 6 pm. Some studios even serve food and drink. The shows feature amazing art as the streets buzz with excitement and energy.
For more photos of my adventure in the Art District, check out the Concrete Canvas Gallery. Search the hash tag #303graffiti on Instagram for a growing compilation of all the graffiti masterpieces seen around Denver.