Walk around the River North Art District (RiNo) in any direction for just a minute and you are bound to see many sprawling murals plastered on the side of a building. You can spend hours wandering the district and still only see half of what RiNo has to offer. That’s where Denver Graffiti Tour (DGT) comes in.
Denver Graffiti Tour takes patrons on a two-hour walking tour of RiNo every Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. The tour stops to appreciate and learn about all the breathtaking murals and graffiti art. Listen to details about the artist, the art and the history of the piece to give a more in-depth and thoughtful experience than you would get on your own.
“We want to give an art class on street art to know the different kinds, but also to give the social, political and historical context of the art that you can’t always find on Google. We do the research, whether that’s talking to the artist directly, or having to just research the heck out of it.” said Jana Novak, the co-owner of DGT. Novak is a freelance writer who started with DGT as a tour guide before stepping into the co-ownership position with Nick Fletcher in February 2022.
Art is a catalyst for community, it’s meant to bring us together and think about the world around us. Denver and the RiNo neighborhood specifically have deep historical ties to the Black and Latino communities. That is where street art in Denver started, and where it’s blossomed into what it is today.
The art on display in RiNo is captivating. Using the buildings as the canvas, creativity is uninhibited, allowing for some of the most thought-provoking artwork in the state. Denver Graffiti Tour was the first tour of its kind in the Mile High City. Their history gives them an edge over their competitors as they have used that time to build deep roots in the community, and watch the growth of this unique sub-culture. Community is one of the core values of the tour as well, as Novak talked extensively about how they can help the neighborhood, and vice versa.
Street art is a mostly thankless art form. At a concert, the artist sees the fans in the crowd cheering. But with physical art, it is not always true. Because of this, an aspect of the business that DGT holds close to its heart is empowering the artists.
Since Novak and Fletcher took over, they have pivoted focus towards doing everything they can to ensure the artists get their fair share of the acclaim they deserve. “We’re trying to spend a lot of time on our social media doing anything to help publicize their art… It’s been a big learning curve to take over a business, but we are really orienting the business to how we can help the artists, and what we can do for them,” said Novak. On their website, there is a tab for the artists that highlight their portfolio and social media and encourages people to support the artist by purchasing some of their work.
“One of the first things we did once we took over was really deep discounts on tours for schools and non-profits,” said Novak. This move seemed to work as schools came to DGT for field trips. During one tour, Novak recalled an instance when a child, who expressed wanting to become a professional street artist, came on the tour. “They happened to run into one of our artists here in the community and the artist spent all this time with him. He even helped him come up with his graffiti artist name. Those are the experiences that make everything worthwhile.”
Denver Graffiti Tour offers tours every weekend which you can get tickets for here. Tickets are $30 for adults and $15 for kids. If the classic tour isn’t enough for you, there is also a happy hour tour that takes a 30-minute break at a local brewery for you to purchase a refreshing ice-cold beer or cocktail.
DGT has a mission of showcasing what Denver has to offer to the world through the means of street art and graffiti. This city’s street art is something to share with others, and DGT is doing everything it can to express that. Through its efforts, they have been able to build a reputation in both the artist and neighborhood communities and are continuing to grow and expand. Remember to wear appropriate clothing and sunscreen as Denver’s weather can be very unpredictable.