Meet Kristen Fogarty and Meredith Steele: they’re the powerhouses behind Magik, a Denver-based painting duo that managed to start a thriving business in the midst of a global pandemic. Fogarty and Steele create vibrant murals for residential and commercial clients on both indoor and outdoor walls. “Our goal is to make art with impact,” said Steele. “We want our work to fit the space, enhance the space and impact the space.”
Fogarty comes from a graphic design background while Steele built her solo career with painting and mixed media work. After going on a “blind friend date,” the artists decided to blend their skills and personalities into what Magik is today. Paint-splattered overalls and brushes in hand, they got to work. After completing a few projects, COVID-19 hit, shutting down companies around the world and hitting small businesses especially hard. Despite the obvious hurdles of starting a business in 2020, Steele and Fogarty have managed to make Magik thrive — their murals are now on walls all over the country in homes, Airbnbs, businesses and public spaces.
“The fact that we have all been stuck inside has helped in a lot of ways because people are spending time in these spaces,” said Steele. “And so I think for residential clients especially, it’s really helped them realize the value of creating a space that they really enjoy being in.”
Balancing Magik with Freelancing
Fogarty still balances freelance graphic design work with mural painting — most of her design clients are small businesses like Magik. After moving to Denver, a mutual friend finally introduced her to Steele. “We’re both artists individually and I was actually following Meredith on Instagram for a year,” said Fogarty. “A friend of mine said that the two of us needed to meet and I was like, ‘I’m glad you know her because I want to know her, too!'”
Steele also does solo art along with Magik projects. “What’s so great is that I still accept commissions, I’m just more selective about it now because of time purposes,” she said. “It’s just so nice to work with somebody on bigger projects, and I think that’s kind of what I was missing.”
“Owning our own businesses really laid the foundation for Magik because we learned so much individually beforehand. It wasn’t quite so scary to open a business because we’ve been doing it for a while,” she added.
Colorado-Fueled, Nationally Mobile
Though neither artists are originally from Colorado, both Steele and Fogarty feel like the Denver environment has been integral for the development and growth of their business. “Denver is celebrating public art in a way that a lot of other cities aren’t,” said Fogarty. “I definitely think Denver serves as a catalyst for us to be as successful as we’ve been so quickly,” added Steele. “I’ve been very surprised at how open people are and how much it’s celebrated. I think we’re lucky to be where we are — we do really intend to travel more for what we do but I think being based in Denver is essential for us.”
Excluding hits taken by the pandemic, both jobs and attendance within the creative and artistic world have been on the upswing for the past decade. Colorado employment within creative industries, including jobs within visual, performing and culinary arts, rose by 25% from 2010 to 2019. An NEA study also placed Colorado as number one per capita in arts engagement — meaning that Coloradans lead the nation in attendance at performing and visual arts events.
Though the pandemic has required them to stay local for most of Magik’s lifetime, they were able to travel to Charleston to compete nine projects in three weeks, including three Airbnbs and an exterior mural. “It was really fun to crank out so much work and paint every day,” said Fogarty.
They both cite a recent project as one that stands out. The “Drip Stairs” cover four concrete walls leading out from a parking garage in Lowry. The public nature of the location plays into their mission to create art with impact. “We’re about making something that people can connect with — making something that speaks to our clients,” said Steele. “We’re more about collaboration with each other and our clients versus just being artists who want to get our own work out there. It’s about impacting people who don’t necessarily connect with artwork too — like trying to make work that the everyday person can be inspired by as well.”
More recently, they’ve been working to find a way that their art can give back to the community. “We’ve created a program called The Highlands Mural Project where local businesses can sponsor public artwork,” said Fogarty. “We’re coming up with concepts with building owners and businesses that will celebrate Colorado and the neighborhood, and the community in general. 20% of every project budget is going to a local DPS school,” she said.
Their first mural for the project raised money for Valdez Elementary and was sponsored by Cherry Creek Mortgage Company. “Not only are we trying to make art that impacts spaces and people, but we’re trying to make art that makes an impact and a difference, especially within education,” added Fogarty. “Art is the first thing to be eliminated from schools right now and budgets are so low it’s embarrassing. We want to make sure that it’s something that’s valued, and continues to be valued.”
For both of them, collaboration with a like-minded partner has also been a huge highlight. “Putting our skills together has been one of the biggest benefits,” said Fogarty. “We both bring different things to the table based on our past experiences. Once we started painting together and doing bigger projects, it opened out eyes even more to the possibilities of what we can do together.”
“Magik’s grown out of that into something we didn’t really even plan for,” she added.
All photos courtesy of Chance Lanphear.