Kelsey Montague is an uplifting Colorado artist whose murals can be found sprinkled around the Denver metro area. She just completed her first street-art piece of 2017, in the RiNo Art District: wings made of red, black, white and patterned hearts that she hopes will unite the city and country during cultural turmoil. #WhatUnitesUs is on the east-facing wall of Il Posto, at 26th and Larimer streets.
Montague's pieces encourage passersby to immerse themselves in them; in the case of #WhatUnitesUs, the wings can almost be "worn." The art is feminine and whimsical, incorporating things like balloons and dragonflies, and is black and white with pops of color.
"#WhatUnitesUs," by Kelsey Montague.
"The wings definitely have an angelic theme for me, but they are also designed to be whatever the community makes of them," Montague says. "I've had so many people e-mail me that they made them feel strong or inspired or connected spiritually or happy, and that is what I want. I want my work to really mean something to people and to be interpreted according to their life circumstances."
Montague has attracted notoriety from the start of her street-art career. Taylor Swift took a photo with the first mural she painted, in Manhattan in July 2014 on the wall of Laughing Man Foundation coffee, and made the piece an overnight celebrity. Suddenly a line formed around the block of fans who wanted a picture with it, including more celebs, like Vanessa Hudgens.
Vanessa Hudgens and Taylor Swift both found Kelsey Montague's Manhattan mural in 2014.
The #WhatLiftsYou project has become Montague's best-known work; it spans from coast to coast and includes a heavily photographed mural in her home town of Littleton, on the south-facing wall of coffee shop Spur.
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The RiNo Art District commissioned Montague to create the mural on Il Posto, which she decided to devote to peace and unity.
"There is so much hate and negativity in the world with the present political climate in the U.S.," explains Courtney Montague, Kelsey's sister and business partner. "She wanted to paint something that centers on love instead of division."
When asked if the #WhatUnitesUs project will be a traveling series, Montague says, "I am looking at doing this series in other parts of the U.S. but don't have final plans I can share yet. I want this piece to be really empowering and to get people to focus on what unites us instead of what divides us. I want people to stand with it and feel like they have a superpower."