Summer in Denver is full of art festivals, where row after row of artists show off their work. But some of the best places to see art in the summer are unofficial: Street artists from Denver and way beyond have made their mark in this state. Here are our ten favorite spots to enjoy the view.
The Art District on Santa Fe is renowned for its galleries, which attract thousands of people on the first Friday of every month. But on any day of the week, the mile-long stretch of Santa Fe Drive south of 13th Avenue is a great place to see some of this city's cutting-edge street art. The best single spot is the 500 block, where the alley between Santa Fe and Inca Street is an incredible gallery on its own. And on the west side of Santa Fe, in that same block, London-based street artist Ben Eine has made his mark with his “Brilliant” sign.
Cherry Creek Bike Path
Denver Arts + Venues and local artists have envisioned a public-art route that stretches along the Cherry Creek Bike Path into the center of the Mile High City. Just this year, new pieces were added at Sixth Avenue and Broadway and at Larimer and Speer by Swedish artists Martin Whatson and Hama Woods, respectively. Confluence Park, where Cherry Creek and the South Platte River converge, is the culmination of this artistic journey; you can wade in the water against the backdrop of work by Jaime Molina, Pedro Barrios, Joseph Martinez and Brazilian artists Ethos and Alex Hornest.
The most decked-out spot in the city is River North, a former industrial area experiencing of renaissance of hip businesses. Every summer, some of those businesses in the alley between the 2700 block of Larimer and Walnut streets host the Colorado Crush festival, a sun-dappled, PBR-guzzling street-art festival. And thanks to the annual NAMTA (International Art Materials Trade Association) convention in Denver this spring, stunning murals have popped up all over RiNo, hidden away on roofs and tucked into nooks and crannies.
This north Denver neighborhood has become a hot restaurant area – but it's also heating up as an art mecca. Street artists have created masterpieces in many surprising spaces. Some of our favorites are the entirely wrapped Burrito Giant painted by Jolt, 84Pages, Plaant and Berk Visual. And this summer, La Raza Park will be getting a new mural painted on Kiosko by David Garcia, as part of the La Raza Park Legacy Project, a cultural nod to the Chicano roots in this Denver 'hood.
LoHi is not so low anymore, not with every new structure built taller than the last in an endless game of view-jacking. But this area is still home to some of coolest art events in town, thanks to the Navajo Street Art District. And if you want to really chill, watch live painting in the square at 16th and Tejon streets – already decked out with a Jolt painting – while you wait for your cone at Little Man Ice Cream.
Globeville was decimated when I-70 cut through the neighborhood more than fifty years ago. But the asphalt jungle created by the interstate also created a concrete canvas for some of the most beautiful street-art pieces in Denver. Look for the work of Globeville resident Anthony Garcia, whose Birdseed Collective has worked with local youth and Denver Arts + Venues to add incredible murals to the area.
Unofficial outdoor gallery Tag Cavern is a hidden gem on the South Platte River. It's just past Brighton Boulevard, on the outskirts of Globeville Landing Park, but it really exists entirely in its own world. Not for children or the faint of heart, this old-school tagging location is the grittiest on the street-art tour, complete with crushed beer cans and less attractive litter spread between pillars decked out with aerosol paint. Enjoy the art, but don’t get arrested or anything.
This secret graffiti cave at Horsetooth Reservoir outside Fort Collins is a favorite with students from Colorado State University. Getting here is an adventure in itself: You climb down and shuffle to the cave entrance, barely squeezing through the rocks and then walking on until you reach the light at the end of the tunnel. Enjoy the colorful view, which ranges from ambitious artworks to tags that ask, “Will you go to prom with me?”
Graffiti Falls is the unofficial name for a lovely spot outside Colorado Springs, which comes complete with a natural waterfall. But almost as impressive is the beautiful street art that's been added to the place over the past twenty years. Springs kids often recount tales of sneaking up to the falls with a twelver of beers and some Sharpies or aerosol cans and leaving a memento of their trip. Not surprisingly, Graffiti Falls has become highly controversial, and many residents complain about what graffiti has done to this natural wonder.
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**Note: We visited Graffiti Falls on June 13 and the space is now under construction indefinitely, due to flooding. Do not attempt to visit, as the Manitou Springs sheriff has warned of major rock slides, and will be issuing trespassing tickets.
The three-mile stretch of art along the Pueblo Levee dates back four decades, and a summertime stroll along its length is a walk back in time and through generations of culture. Unfortunately, the levee – which boasts the Guinness record for being the largest mural in the world – is set to be replaced in a four-year construction project. The work will destroy the wall – but for now, most of the art is still intact, a reminder of the fleeting, impermanent nature of street art.