It’s that time of year in Denver when street art lovers start salivating at the prospect of watching RiNo transform with the creative outburst of almost 100 artists during the festival CRUSH WALLS. A decade in the making, this urban art extravaganza will celebrate the 10th year by showing just how far it’s come, while staying true to its roots this September 2 through 8.
The first years of CRUSH (short for Creative Rituals Under Social Harmony) looked vastly different from what the festival is now. In 2010, a handful of graffiti artists, led by Robin Munro, were allowed to paint walls without fear of retribution. Three years later CRUSH doubled in size, and each year after it’s grown even more. But the idea behind it has remained consistent — to showcase artistic talent in an open-air and accessible format.
Because CRUSH is a week-long festival, it’s hard to figure out the best way to take advantage of such a unique event. With years of expertise on our side, we’ve devised the perfect itinerary to follow in order to maximize your street art experience this upcoming week. For the full schedule of events, go here.
Say Goodbye to the Old Murals
When: Friday, August 30 – Sunday, September 1
The Lowdown: As the first day of CRUSH nears, some of the walls in RiNo will be buffed — or painted over in a solid color. Each year this happens, and each year it’s (mostly) a mystery as to which walls will become blank canvases for the upcoming festival until the week before. There’s something eerie about seeing the familiar murals disappear one-by-one, but that same feeling rolls into a mood of renewal and excitement. Taking the trip to explore the neighborhood with the thought that the landscape will change drastically in one week’s time will ensure that you appreciate every wall like it’s the first time you’ve seen it.
Pro tip: If you want to help with this process or other aspects of the festival, you can always sign up to volunteer. It’s a great way to get behind-the-scenes a little and see what it takes to organize an event of this scale.
When: Tuesday, September 3
The Lowdown: After an opening night party on Monday, most artists will start working on their walls on Tuesday. It’s not the best time to see the pieces of art, but it is the best time to introduce yourself to an artist you might want to watch throughout the festival. Check out the map in order to find all the walls to head to.
Tuesday also gives street art lovers a chance to support some of their favorite (mostly) local talent at a gallery exhibition hosted at Dateline, This Is It Vol. 2. With work from Alexandrea Pangburn (the new Creative Director for CRUSH) and Romelle, Anna Charney, Casey Kawaguchi, Chris Haven, DINKC, Elvis, Emit, Jason Garcia, Ladies Fancywork Society, Koko Bayer, Michael Ortiz, Miss Meeg, Pat Milbery, Patrick Kane McGregor, Ricks 73, Rumtum and Shitty Kitten — it covers an impressive expanse of what Denver street art has to offer. Pieces from visiting artists Remote, Birdcap, Didirock, El Chan Guri and Hiero round out the collection and remind us to look beyond Denver every once in a while.
The focus on local artists is admirable, but it’s always exciting to have visiting artists in Denver, bringing a different perspective and aesthetic to our streets. Even though all the visiting artists this year were invited by a Colorado-based artist to encourage collaboration and keep it local, we can’t help but shout out to some of those artists as ones not to miss.
Pro tip: If you fall in love with one of the artists’ styles during this show or during the festival, you can always commission an original. Many of the artists who participate in CRUSH are versatile practitioners who make custom art, and often they are just an Instagram message away.
Learn Something New
When: Wednesday, September 4, 5 – 8 p.m.
The Lowdown: Two events on Wednesday will help you understand the street art scene in more detail. Unfortunately, they are occurring at the same time so you’ll have to decide which one to choose. Dive into the “Law of Street Art” at Ironton Distillery & Crafthouse, where attorney Zach Warkentin of Warkentin LLC and Dave Ratner of Creative Law Network will discuss copyright and other legal issues with street art. This panel will help clarify when and how you can use street art, murals and graffiti with photography or other situations while also educating artists about their rights when painting in the public sphere.
Meanwhile, at Ratio Beerworks, Wednesday will be a day for celebrating women in street art. Organized by The Street Art Network and 303 Magazine, five women who are involved in the street art scene in various ways will discuss their experiences, thoughts, lessons learned and more from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The panelists are UC Sepia, Robyn Frances, Chelsea Lewinski, Lindee Zimmer and Mary Valdez. Get there early for an “Empowerment Hour” from 5 to 6 p.m. to connect with other street art lovers and maybe talk to a panelist ahead of the discussion.
Pro tip: In case you can’t make it to the “Law of Street Art” event, there’s one lesson we can help with. Always ask if you can take a photo of an artist before doing it and especially if you plan to post it on social media. Some artists prefer a more secretive approach to their work, other artists will be more than happy to pose — it’s just a matter of being polite and asking permission. When posting photos of CRUSH’s artists and activities online, always credit the artist and the festival by tagging the appropriate accounts. If you plan to make any money from an image with street art, you must have the explicit consent of the artist.
When: Friday, September 6, 7:30 – 11:30 p.m.
The Lowdown: Last year marked the first time that CRUSH and Secret Walls collaborated, and this year it’s coming back due to popular demand. Secret Walls started 12 years ago and has traveled all over since, pitting street artists against each other in a friendly competition that requires collaboration and the ability to focus under pressure. Unlike the painting you’ll see during the day (relaxed and precise), Secret Walls lets you experience the frenzied energy of artists competing and improvising. The location is — you guessed it — secret until the day of the event. But expect a big warehouse somewhere in RiNo. Make sure you pay the $5 in advance.
Pro tip: Bring a bandana to cover your nose and mouth, in case some artists use spray paint like they did last year. At times, it was difficult to stand close to the action without inducing a headache.
A Day of Exploring
When: Saturday, September 7
The Lowdown: Start your weekend in an adventurous way with a photo scavenger hunt from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., which starts in Lot 28 at 28th and Blake Streets. Then, spend the rest of your day checking out the different sites and activities — like the Boxyard Park concert. Or, take your own tour through the art. Start at the Denver Central Market parking lot and work your way north through the alleys (go here for the map). Walk over the pedestrian bridge at 36th and Blake Streets and continue following the path to see the new murals on the Brighton Boulevard side. End the tour by completing the loop and ending at the same parking lot (it will take you roughly two hours) or finish it at Zeppelin Station or The Source for a drink and a good view.
Pro tip: Check out our previous articles about CRUSH to beef up on your local artist knowledge for the scavenger hunt.
When: Saturday, September 7, 12 – 8 p.m.
The Lowdown: Last year’s block party was a hit, with special augmented mural activations, music, beer from Ratio Beerworks and an excited crowd made up of artists and art lovers. As pictured above, Anna Charney’s mural for CRUSH 2018 was designed to interact with digital projections from local artist B1n4ry Visuals. This year, we are expecting a similar experience, plus a little more. Full details are forthcoming, but for now, know that this Saturday night soiree will be the place to hang out.
Pro tip: If you want to take some unusual street art photos, grab your tripod and bring it down to RiNo on Saturday night. There will be plenty of opportunities for one-of-a-kind shots.
A Community Mural and Farewell Concert
When: Sunday, September 8
The Lowdown: End the weekend by getting your hands dirty during a community mural painting from 10 a.m. to noon, designed by Anthony Garcia Sr. and located at 39th and Wynkoop (in the middle of the intersection). After watching artists all week, you should have some hints as to how to paint a mural properly. Then, after checking out the finished murals, head to the Mission Ballroom for the first annual CRUSH concert with Natalia LaFourcade. LaFourcade is a Mexican pop-rock singer who has enjoyed immense success in Latin America since she debuted her first album in 2003.
Pro tip: Check out all the art inside Mission Ballroom — it was commissioned from local artists, some of which are participating in this year’s CRUSH like Garcia Sr., Lindee Zimmer, Detour and RUMTUM.
For more information, including a list of all participating artists in CRUSH 2019, visit this website.