For over a decade, Mary Valdez with Denver Public Art has organized a program where local, national and international street artists are given a stipend to paint murals all over the city called the Urban Arts Fund (UAF). So far, Valdez has commissioned over 300 individual art pieces, many of which are still riding on walls or on the Cherry Creek Bike Path.
The program has developed into both an apprenticeship of sorts for emerging street artists — Valdez and her choosing committee have a soft spot for emerging artists who represent marginalized communities — as well as a rite of passage. Most of the city’s well-known mural artists have participated, including Casey Kawaguchi, DINKC and Anthony Garcia Sr.
Unfortunately, an announcement was sent out to prospective applicants last week about the postponement of this year’s funded murals. Instead of offering 15 to 20 artists the chance to paint a UAF mural, the department has focused on allocating emergency relief grants through the IMAGINE 2020 artist relief fund. As of April 8, applications to this fund were suspended due to the high number of submissions. Denver Arts & Venues said that they are processing close to $160,000 to support individual artists.
According to the email sent out to UAF applicants from Denver Arts & Venues, “The challenges we are collectively facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have inevitably forced us to focus our time and efforts on responding to the current crisis. This is why at this time we have made the decision to place the Urban Arts Fund on hold for 2020. We will reevaluate and adjust the program according to changing conditions as we move through the coming months ahead.”
Although we won’t have the joy of discovering new murals this year, we can rest assured that many artists who have already made an impact on the city with their creations are being taken care of through the IMAGINE 2020 fund, as well as a multitude of other relief funds and programs.