During September, nearly 30 international and local artists converged on three elementary schools in the Sun Valley and Villa Park communities of Denver to paint murals as part of the RAW Project. Though it’s not entirely clear if it was coincidental or not, the painting took place during the same time as the annual RiNo street art festival, CRUSH, and both projects shared a few nationally and internationally renowned artists.
The RAW Project started in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood in 2014, as a way to spread creativity and art to schools that needed it the most. The Wynwood Arts District, with over 70 art galleries and a bonafide business improvement district similar and more extreme than Denver’s RiNo or West Colfax areas, contained a middle school that all art programming had been canceled for. RAW Project’s founder Robert de Los Rios knew he couldn’t implement arts programs for all schools that needed them, but he saw a need for children to at least be surrounded by art, leading him to gather world-class muralists to paint for the kids— and do it without being paid. Originally RAW stood for Re-Imagining the Arts Wynwood, but with the recent expansion of RAW to Denver and now the world, the acronym now means Re-Imagining the Arts Worldwide.
And, according to RAW’s organizers, their first programs had remarkable results, “more kids were coming back to school, and class attendance increased. There was an increase in test scores, school pride, and a decrease in bullying and violence.” This kind of response is probably not surprising to those who cherish art and creativity, especially throughout childhood, but it may come as a surprise to those who feel as if art education and exposure is limited to teaching people how to paint. There is real credibility to the idea that inspiring surroundings lead to inspiring behavior.
De Los Rios told us that the experience in Denver was “unbelievable.”
“I could not have been happier with all the support and help we got. We had people feeding us from local restaurants and all of the artists had a great time in the city. It was unreal. I’m not going to stop doing this. I already have schools all over the world who want their walls painted. It’s just a matter of raising just enough money to keep us going,” he said.
The artists who participated in Denver also did the work pro bono, though their travel expenses were paid for with the small purse of RAW. That’s part of the beauty of the project, as it is ultimately a labor of love— something the artists are more than happy to do out of hopes for improving a community. De Los Rios foresees that RAW can become a nonprofit in the near future, but until then, it’s up to him and the other organizers to fund it.
Because it may be just a little creepy to walk around three elementary schools scoping out murals, 303 Magazine took that duty and captured images of every mural. And since you should be interested in what artists are doing this work, for the betterment of children and their communities, we’ve also listed the artists and a short blurb about them.
Fairview Elementary School
Artists to see at Fairview:
Santiago Rubino – Argentinian-born, Miami-based artist who mixes natural icons with powerful use of negative space. He is self-taught, though it looks like he’s been classically trained. He painted a mural here and at Eagleton
Zed1 – widely known Italian artist Marco Buressi paints large characters he calls puppets, with poetic additions in words and orientation. There’s something about his murals that screams “modern-day fairy tales.”
Chad Hasegawa – born and raised in Hawaii, Hasegawa is now based out of San Francisco and displays his art in galleries when he isn’t painting murals. His pieces, whether inside or out, are filled with bold, colorful strokes that are made with no regrets.
So Gnar Creative Division – A group of Denver-based artists, Remington Robinson, Pat Milbery, Hunter Stevens and Jason Graves (Pat McKinney did not paint this one but is usually a part of the group). This group is also responsible for the Love This City murals, as well as a sizable list of other murals around Denver.
Li Hill – Canadian-born artist currently residing in Brooklyn, with an education in Fine Arts. His work imparts a sense of motion and of someone trying to detangle complex thoughts on life, the universe and everything.
Kai Art – L.A.-based, and a veteran artist for the first RAW Project in Wynwood. He has pieces on two of the elementary schools, exhibiting a youthful simplicity. On Fairview, the cartoon is giving a peace sign.
Artists to see at Eagleton:
Anthony Garcia Sr., aka Birdseed Anthony – Denver native and veteran of the local mural scene, Anthony painted one of his new signature geometric patterns mostly using primary colors.
Aholsniffsglue – though not the best name to go by when painting a mural for children, Ahol (as he is known by on his website) does have an interesting style that doesn’t portray something like… sniffing glue. His current style depicts drowsy eyes, which is most definitely a critique of the phone-zombies of contemporary culture.
Paola Delfin – born in Mexico City, Delfín is a wonderful example of the power of feminine energy in areas that have been lacking it so far, like street art. For this particular mural, she took photos of different students at the school and mixed them together to create one hybrid child that everyone thinks looks exactly like them.
Mr. June – from the Netherlands, Mr. June was also in town for CRUSH and painted a large alley-way mural with a few other international artists. He then headed over the Eagleton and painted a large wall with his signature geometric background, adding a few eerily photorealistic bubbles to finish it.
Jazz Guetta – L.A. native, Guetta heard about the RAW Project through Kai Art and other mutual friends who would be painting. About his participation, he said “it was such an honor and a humbling experience to be part of a project that impacts the community so positively.”
Otto Schade – Chilean-born artist currently based in London, Schade received a degree in Architecture before finding a passion in murals. Since his entrance into street art, he has traveled all over the world painting and participating in festivals.
Kevin Ledo – from Montreal, Canada, Ledo is a well-known muralist who almost explicitly paints human portraits, especially with uplifting expressions or poses. His mural at Eagleton is called “Rise Above.”
MTO – French artist Mateo is known for his grayscale photorealistic designs that mix urban themes with pop culture icons and ideas.
Kai Art – L.A.-based, and a veteran artist for the first RAW Project in Wynwood. He has pieces on two of the elementary schools. On Eagleton there are two of Kai’s pieces.
Artists to see at Cowell:
Zeus – Dean Zeus Colman (his given name) is a London-based artist who has been involved with all different aspects of creativity and urban culture for the last 30 years.
KeeVer – Dean McKeever is from Massachusetts and is an illustrator by trade, making a whole collection of images and designs with powerful colors and a strong Thoreau’s cabin feel.
Amanda Valdes – Another Miami native, Valdes has a pretty iconic style with whimsical characters, realistic flowers and a welcomed feminine vibe
Said Kinos – Based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, Kinos especially focuses on typography and lettering, though his art also displays a strong graphic design inspiration.
Luis Berros – South Florida near-native, Berros was given the chance to escape mischief at a young age by training with oil painting. He brings his classic education to the streets with remarkable murals that fuse street art with fine art in unique ways.
Hoxxoh – Douglas Hoekzema is a Miami-based artist, known for his portal-like freehanded spray paint designs that embody the concept of time. He also painted in the main CRUSH parking lot during the festival, which you can see if you drive on Larimer Street between 26th and 27th.
Jazz Guetta – L.A. native, Guetta heard about the RAW Project through Kai Art and other mutual friends who would be painting.
Trek6 – born and raised in Miami, Oscar Montes has been creating art in different platforms for three decades, which has taken him to interesting places, like a stint in Puerto Rico in the late 90s where he founded an indie rock band, Oruga.