Street art is usually a fly-by-night phenomena, one that the artists prefer no one -- especially the police -- witness. Just ask the Knapper twins, the subjects of this week's Westword cover story. But Denver has recently taken to the idea of live street-art events. And last Friday night, UnseenDenver (Westword's 2011 Best Of Photo Blog) sponsored a fundraiser for Arts Street, a sixteen-year-old foundation that provides youth with job skills through art, where two artists, Uni and Square, put up their work right before everyone's eyes at Uncubed, a communal workspace at 2763 Walnut Street.
Uni, who also goes by Theo, is the guy behind the Jack Kerouac stencils that appeared earlier this year in places that Kerouac either mentioned in his book On the Road or was known to frequent. Uni took on the project because he was dismayed that Francis Ford Coppola had decided to film parts of his On the Road movie adaptation in Canada rather than in Denver, where the writer spent so much time.
At Uncubed, Uni put his gas mask on and took it off as he worked on a multi-layered Kerouac stencil on the interior of the cavernous room. Kerouac was Theo's first major stencil project, and he enjoyed comparing the Denver locales that Kerouac describes with the ones he experienced himself growing up here. Uni is also putting up Kurt Vonnegut, William S. Burroughs and Elliot Smith images these days.
Square, a formerly gallery-oriented artist who has turned his attentions to street art for the past two years, climbed up and down a ladder, painting a floor-to-ceiling piece of a blindfolded woman with paint poured on her head. He'd taken a photo of the image first: Yes, the model got paint poured over her head; no, she was not handsomely compensated.
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Earlier in the day, a third artist, bunny M, put up a large yellow wheat paste on the side of the building that is still viewable from the alley and the parking lot on Larimer and 27th streets. She was at the event as well, walking around the gallery in a shiny, red bob wig and a bandana over half of her face -- perhaps attracting more attention than if she'd gone 100 percent incognito. The three artists seemed relatively unfazed by the possibility of getting picked up by the law at the even, although they all like to protect their identities. Keeping their profiles low also keeps some of the mystery of street art, bunny M says.