LoHi is one of the hottest real estate markets in town -- and Little Man Ice Cream is one of the businesses that's made the area so cool. The man behind the iconic Little Man just teamed up with Jolt, a graffiti artist and Westword MasterMind, to create another landmark for the neighborhood: a mural behind Little Man.
"We felt that Jolt, with his native roots in the neighborhood, was the perfect artist for our initial concept," says Paul Tamburello, owner of Little Man and the visionary behind the LoHi Marketplace, a bustling hub of retailers and restaurants in Lower Highland that's located in and around the original Olinger's complex.
Jolt, a graduate of North high School just up the street, has been doing graffiti art since 1993, when he was just a kid. He started out doing work on abandoned and rundown buildings in the neighborhood, but has since moved on to big, commissioned pieces by Mountain Dew and PBR when he's not busy running his north Denver studio, Guerilla Gardens. "My art was always pretty large scale," says Jolt in a YouTube interview. "I never painted anything until I picked up a can of spray paint."
The LoHi piece, which he completed last Friday, is one of his larger ones. "It's very organic, it's from the earth," Jolt explains. Carrots growing out of the ground lead into a skirt made out of a monarch butterfly. Broccoli as a T-shirt merges into the face of a beautiful girl. While he was painting the piece, "there was a little girl out here with her teacher," Jolt recalls. "And she says to the little girl, 'That looks like you.'" This moment was a very physical reminder of what art is all about for Jolt: connecting to the community.
The LoHi Marketplace is about helping to build that community. Tamburello constructed the 28-foot-high steel milk can that houses the ice cream (and, in cold weather, soup) shop in 2008, two years after Lola became the first landmark tenant in the Olinger's building just down the hill. Today Little Man is the center of a plaza that started taking shape in 2011. There are four wifi accessible patios that provide community space for concerts, movie screenings and farmers' markets. Next summer, Tamburello hopes to integrate an amphitheater for "ride-in" movies.
He also hopes that Jolt's work is the first of many art installations for the plaza. "The neighborhood has changed tremendously over the past five years," Tamburello says. "My hope is that the mural and the conversation it evokes draw attention to the significance of the area's past and celebrates its future."
Jolt has done many murals all over the city. He wants those works, like the LoHi piece, to represent the past, present and future," Jolt says, "getting to know the community and building with people on that concept."
Little Man Ice Cream is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day; the community is invited to come out and enjoy the art, some conversation...and maybe even a little ice cream.
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