While the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged many over the past few months — one local street artist wants to help others stay hopeful in the best way she knows how. Koko Bayer is a familiar name within the Denver art scene. While she is a talented street artist that has worked with CRUSH Walls and Meow Wolf — what makes Bayer stand out most is her dedication to the art of wheatpasting. If you have been anywhere in the Denver or Boulder area lately, you may have seen her newest project — also known as Project Spread Hope.
The project involves Bayer’s classic wheat paste medium. Earlier this year — when the pandemic began to sweep through the country, Bayer felt motivated to create a project that would inspire others. This is when she created the now-iconic yellow heart with the word “Hope” inside of it — and began wheatpasting these hearts across the Denver area.
“As the lockdown started, I found myself pacing around town thinking of ways I could make people feel better,” Bayer said. “After coming up with the idea, I went through the process of designing the print. I wanted to look for a color that would have an emotional effect.”
While yellow is known as being a happy color, due to Bayer’s work, it has now become a color of hope to many Denver residents. It seems as if though the hearts can be found around every corner. You may find one in an alleyway, on a window, on a building or even on a dumpster. In fact — Bayer has installed over 200 hope hearts in the Denver area. Another 100 can be found in Summit County. Many of them are over six feet wide.
You may find, however, that not all of the hearts are yellow. In early June, Bayer modified her design to include and celebrate both the LGBT community and the Black community. These new hearts feature the Pride Flag designed in 2017 by the Philadelphia Office of LGBT Affairs. This modified version of the traditional pride flag includes black and brown stripes which symbolize people of color within the LGBT community. Bayer then added the colors of the transgender flag at the center of the design.
“Each year I do a pride project specifically for Pride Month,” Bayer said. “I decided to incorporate my pride project into Project Spread Hope. The black and brown stripes are there in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.”
One of Bayer’s goals when creating art is involving the public and offering chances for them to own her art for free. Bayer has a tradition of dropping off a souvenir nearby each time she pastes a new print. One of her recent souvenirs is titled “yellow and nickel block universal” — which features a design by her step-grandfather and well-known Bauhaus artist Herbert Bayer, titled head + heart + hand. If you stumble upon a freshly pasted print, you might just have a chance at finding one of Bayer’s block souvenirs for yourself.
As for the future of this project, Bayer has no plans to stop pasting hearts anytime soon. As long as she has space to paste, these signs of hope will keep popping up around Denver.
“This project will go on indefinitely,” Bayer said. “Basically for as long as we need hope.”
Bayer shared that the only way this project can continue is if people continue to donate high visibility spots. Property owners who would like to donate space for a heart can do so by contacting Bayer. Donating a space for Bayer to paste on is completely free.
Bayer is set to have an exhibition of her works on display at the Denver Botanic Gardens beginning in mid-September and running through December. Her work will also be seen at both the Babe Walls and CRUSH Walls festivals this year.
You can follow along with and contact Koko Bayer on Instagram. Prints can be downloaded here. Bayer is seeking donations that will go directly toward her print fund. Donations can be made through Venmo @Koko-Bayer.