Sean Rice was the first gallery owner to discover that the city had wiped out a wall of urban art. It was just before the Democratic National Convention hit town, and Denver's graffiti cleanup crew, called out to deal with tagging in the Ballpark neighborhood, decided to give nearby Orange Cat Studios, at 2625 Larimer Street, a free paint job — covering a mural that could cost thousands to replace ("Blankety-Blank," September 4).
Rice sent the city attorney's office an estimate of $12 per square foot, "the cheapest I found," to make good on its bad move. "They told me how sorry they were, how they'd like to work something out, and how broke the city was," Rice says. He's beginning to think he contacted the wrong lawyer: Painting by numbers never creates great art.
But over at The Other Side Arts, at 1644 Platte Street, a conclusion is in sight for the controversy that saw two outdoor murals on the gallery painted over by cops in riot gear the day before the DNC. And that conclusion will be something that everyone in town can see: new art on the outside of the building. "We've been working with the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs," explains TOSA's Crissy Robinette. "We're just waiting to see some kind of contract from the city. We are going to have a committee and request submissions from local artists."
The Other Side Arts
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Even TOSA's landlord will sit on the committee, which will consider proposals for city-funded replacement murals that deal with the subject of censorship and free speech.
But already a creator of one of the original murals, Mario Zoots, is speaking freely about his displeasure with this solution. "Our artist collective supplied all our own paint and did a mural for free on TOSA, which is documented on YouTube," he says, complaining that now TOSA has invited the crew to do just a portion of the replacement. "Graffiti is the truest and most expressive art form there is, but the least respected," he adds. "Denver has a lot to learn about art, even in our alternative spaces."
And the lessons just keep on coming.