Over the weekend, history was made in Colorado when an entire mural festival was completed by womxn and non-binary folks. Called Babe Walls, this festival included more than 25 artists transforming 12 walls spread out between apartment complexes and other residential buildings in Westminster.
Organized by Denver-based street artist and curator Alexandrea Pangburn, Babe Walls was meant to be an event created for (and by) womxn, to make them feel safe and allow them to express their art with no fear and no competition. The street art scene has been a male-dominated industry and mural festivals — with all of the heavy equipment, tall buildings and exposure to the elements — makes some people question women’s ability to “keep up with the boys” so to speak. Babe Walls proved that those assumptions are nonsense.
“I want to create opportunities for artists. And that’s really where my passion lies,” Pangburn noted in an interview with 303 Magazine when the idea for Babe Walls was first announced. “But I also know that [the street art scene] can be intimidating for women and not accessible to all of them.”
Some of the artists who participated in Babe Walls this past weekend have already painted in other mural festivals like CRUSH Walls and Colorcon, but others were first-timers to the festival scene. Since there were 12 walls but twice as many artists, the artists were grouped together in order to create collaborations.
Some of the pairings helped with a certain level of mentorship, featuring relative newcomers with veterans — like Olive Moya and Lindee Zimmer. Zimmer is the founder of the Fort Collins Mural Festival and has painted murals all over the Front Range for years, whereas Moya started painting murals in earnest as recently as last year. In pairings like theirs, there were moments of teaching and learning that are harder to find as a woman in the street art world.
Other collaborations were more about pre-existing creative alliances, like Anna Charney and Megan Walker — who have worked together in the past. Or about complementary styles like Kaitlin Ziesmer and Kaitlin Orin — who created two murals heavily influenced by graphic design. Or about juxtaposing styles like Grow Love, Tribal Murals (Alicia Cardenas) and Moe Gram — a semi-realistic muralist, a painter who works with Indigenous patterns and an abstractionist, respectively.
Babe Walls was community-funded and was able to happen due to more than $55,000 in donations through a Kickstarter campaign. Those donations helped pay for the artist’s stipends, materials and equipment rental. Many of those donations came from regular folks and fans of street art, rather than large companies or grants (although there were also some big-name sponsors for the festival like Red Bull). The walls were donated by Christina Eisenstein (a property manager and designer) and an affordable housing development owned by Maiker Housing Partners*.
Babe Walls distinguished itself from other murals festivals and showed how much interest there is in seeing womxn and non-binary artists painting massive works of art. Mural festivals in Colorado have, up to this point, been defined by “street cred” and a hierarchy that graffiti artists tend to adhere to. Artists might be included if they are in certain crews (the equivalent of a graffiti art collective) or if they know the right people. Walls are divvied out according to stature or reputation or level of respect from fellow artists. Mural festivals have also historically been at the whims of sponsors. None of those things defined Babe Walls, and if this first year is a sign of things to come, they will never define the festival in the future either.
To look at the murals: Head up to 72nd Avenue and Hooker Street in Westminster. The first one you’ll see is by Marissa Napoletano. Keep walking south on Hooker Street and look for murals mostly located on the right. Turn left on 71st Avenue to see another grouping of murals. Finish the walk by turning left on Federal Boulevard and exploring the apartment complex to your left. Please be aware that these are residential buildings and should be treated as such.
A full list of participating artists: Adrienne Noris, Alexandrea Pangburn, Alicia Cardenas, Anna Charney, Ashley Joon, Becca Reitz, Chelsea Lewinski, Danielle Seewalker, Gina Ilczyszyn, Grow Love, Kaitlin Orin, Kaitlin Ziesmer, Koko Bayer, Ladies Fancywork Society, Lauren Napolitano, Lindee Zimmer, Marissa Napoletano, Megan Walker, Moe Gram, Myah Mazcara, Olive Moya, R0melle, Sandi Calistro, Sandra Fettingis, Taylor Herzog.
All photography by Adrienne Thomas
*Editor’s note: the article originally used a previous name for this housing developer.