Although Denver used to be defined by the people who were born and raised here, in recent years it’s melted into a more diverse population that increasingly supports locally-made things. From hundreds of craft breweries to art galleries to venues playing homegrown live music, the Mile High City thrives on the makers and doers who live in its limits (or maybe just outside of them). That’s why every year, 303 Magazine likes to celebrate the day of the year that symbolizes why we have our name to begin with — 303 Day on March 3 in honor of the area code that always let people know where you called home.
This year, we’ve been working with local artist duo Johnny Draco and Amy Johnson of Realize on something extra special for the celebration — a custom-made and hand-drawn “Denver Alphabet” featuring 26 locations that make this city memorable. Each letter was decided through submissions from fans of this magazine and the other partners for 303 Day — Illegal Pete’s, Channel 93.3 and New Belgium Mountain Time Lager.
This wasn’t our idea though. Draco has been making city-themed alphabets for a few years and made one for Denver without our help in 2018. When he reached out about partnering with us for a renewed version, we saw 303 Day as a perfect fit.
“We wanted to partner with 303 Magazine because of their positive influence on covering art in the community,” Johnson and Draco said.
Draco is originally from Atlanta and moved to Denver in 2017 when he landed his dream job at Kidrobot — a collectible toy manufacturer based in Boulder. Since then he’s managed to find time to paint and illustrate beyond his designing gig at Kidrobot, and even landed a solo show at ReCreative in the Art District on Santa Fe last year. Johnson is originally from Colorado and brings the perspective of a life-long resident to the project.
By partnering with us, Draco and Johnson were able to gather suggestions from a larger local fan base than they had alone, although some of the submissions surprised them. Each letter of the alphabet relates to the name of a business that is intrinsically connected to Denver. Some were obvious, like Red Rocks for “R” (yes we know it’s technically in Morrison) and Little Man Ice Cream for “L.” Others were delightfully accurate but unexpected, like Kaladi Coffee for “K” and Quizno’s for “Q.”
“We thought that there would be more responses for unseen and unheard places in Denver but I guess those are better-left secrets for everyone. Doing our research on the chosen spots and beyond, it was interesting to learn what well-known companies actually got their start in Denver,” the team explained.
In order to see the full alphabet and the rest of the places immortalized through illustrated letters, you’ll have to come out to one of the events happening on March 3. Experience the full alphabet in the lobby of the Mission Ballroom precluding the Channel 93.3 concert celebrating 303 Day with the Colorado band 3OH!3, Lil Jon and Denver’s own electro duo Breathe Carolina. And then check out each individual letter at the South Broadway location of Illegal Pete’s, where we’ll also be releasing 303 Music Vol. 3., our exclusive all local vinyl.
If you weren’t already in love with the city you live in, 303 Day is the time to fall. It’s all about supporting and highlighting local creatives — from the free headshots offered to Colorado creatives to the vinyl showcasing all Colorado-based musicians. Adding an ode to some of the most beloved businesses and places, created lovingly by a Denver-based artist duo, is the cherry on the cake.
The Denver Alphabet will be on sale and on view at Mission Ballroom and Illegal Pete’s South Broadway on March 3 and after that through the Realize website.