On June 5, employees from Washington D.C’s department of public works painted an enormous mural on the street leading up to the White House. The mural itself was designed and sketched by eight artists commissioned by Mayor Muriel Bowser. That image may become one of the iconic images of the Black Lives Matter movement — the words are painted onto the street in the same yellow paint of double lines in the middle of the road with the letters stretching to either side of the block. Other cities have since followed suit — Seattle, Oakland, Dallas — and now Denver.
The artists in charge of the Denver-based effort are Adri Norris and Pat Milbery. Thursday night, the city closed down a section of Broadway between Colfax Avenue and 14th Avenue. The shutdown of this block lasted between 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 11 and went through 11:59 p.m. on Friday, June 12. Norris and Milbery began setting up the design of the mural at night and finished their work early on Friday.
Norris and Milbery worked closely with Denver’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure. The mural has no specific end date where it will be removed — but as the block is reopened and traffic is allowed back through — they hope the art will last between 30 and 45 days. They enlisted the help of a boom truck in order to sketch out and frame the large design.
“Even if it does not last forever, I think that it is important to have the statement written large in an area that is surrounded by the municipal functions of the city,” Norris explained. “These are the institutions in our city that need this message the most because they are in charge of creating the kinds of laws and enforcing the kinds of laws that have been detrimental to people of color in Denver.”
According to Milbery — no one artist can take credit for all of the work but he shared that this work exists mainly due to the vision of Norris — who thought of and designed the message. Since Milbery is known for his large scale street art — he assisted Norris in creating a piece of this size. As for the creation of the mural itself — the piece was a collaboration between about 300 other artists. Norris and Milbery called on help from artists from around the state — specifically artists of color.
“The idea was to bring people together and have the community involved,” Milbery said. “We wanted an area with high visibility like Broadway, right in front of Capitol Hill. We wanted to send a message of solidarity and support.”
What makes this mural unique from those in other cities is that it features the words “Remember This Time,” Norris shared that she intentionally wanted this to be added in order to stir the movement.
“I thought it was essential to add a call to action to the message, so that instead of just writing ‘Black Lives Matter’ we have something more specific that people should do,” Norris said. “Americans are notoriously bad at history and that’s something I think is very important for us to change.”
Early Friday morning, a combination of various local artists began to arrive to help finish the project. Milbery shared how artists — both experienced and inexperienced — collaborated with families and community members to work together. The day was emotional as artists shared their personal experiences with discrimination and police brutality.
“We wanted people to release their frustration and hurt through art,” Milbery shared. “This was just one step in a direction for change.”