Street Art

Little Man Ice Cream Unveils New Mural From Local Chicano Artist

Ken Marley is pictured painting the Chicano Mural at Little Man Ice Cream.
Ken Marley is pictured painting the Chicano Mural at Little Man Ice Cream. Ken Marley
Little Man Ice Cream is set to unveil a new mural painted by Chicano artist Ken Marley (Aqua One), at an event on Thursday, June 23, that will include tamales by La Casita, a visit from the Denver Fashion Truck, a live performance by Los Mocochetes and, of course, ice cream.

“I hope that [the mural] sparks curiosity to learn and understand what the roots of the neighborhood actually are. And to appreciate the beauty in the old architecture and the old churches and the surrounding gorgeous buildings,” says Basha Cohen, Little Man marketing director.

Neighbors with lowriders are encouraged to cruise over and show off their Northside pride during a night of fun to showcase Denver's Chicano roots. Marley will also talk about where he found inspiration for the mural.

“My style and approach to this specific mural is expressive Chicano art,” says Marley. “My shapes are originally inspired by the Aztec calendar and symbols turned into my own unique typography. I began including these shapes and symbols in representational imagery, such as the sky, church and the car. Even my brush strokes, colors and shapes have very expressive characteristics. The goal was to combine all these concepts into a very visually compelling piece.”

The mural, titled “Sunset Over the Northside,” depicts the St. Patrick Mission Church facing east during a beautiful Colorado sunset, while vintage lowriders cruise the neighborhood. Marley says he has always admired St. Patrick Mission Church in lower Highland. The church was built in 1907 with Mission revival architecture and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Drawing inspiration from his neighborhood growing up, Marley knew that the church at 3325 Pecos Street, where his friends and family members have both gotten married and held funerals for loved ones, had to be a part of the mural.

Marley grew up in north Denver and began his art journey young. “My art career started when I was just a teenager, visiting the train yards and abandoned warehouses, [where] I saw graffiti art lettering, characters and styles. It made a big impression on me, and I decided that's what I wanted to do,” says Marley. He went on to become the first person in his family to attend college, and holds a BFA from Metropolitan State University of Denver.

But he did not begin painting murals right away. Marley started his own business along with a family, and took a break from painting. “After ten years, I had this vacancy in my soul. I [wasn't] doing what I love to do, so all this money and success was really no good,” says Marley. He went back to MSU and took a semester in advanced painting. “My style evolved," he recalls. "My graffiti art, typography, Chicano Mexican symbols and elements were fusing into a cohesive painting.” Thus began a muralist journey for Marley, who was even invited to fly out to New York to paint a mural on the side of a Chipotle outpost in Manhattan.

The collaboration with Little Man began when Marley told his son Kenny, a general manager for the ice cream store, that he was interested in painting a mural at Little Man Ice Cream’s Colfax location. A different artist is set for the Colfax location, but the store asked Marley to paint a mural for the Northside location.

“Our patio has always offered itself as a community center for the neighborhood, and now we have a beautiful art piece to reflect those aspirations,” says Kenny Marley. “I’m so thrilled to see my dad’s artwork displayed and shared with the rest of Denver. It will definitely resonate with any local that comes by."

“This piece was truly the most significant and meaningful piece of my career. I poured my heart and soul into it,” adds the artist. “With this mural, I wanted to bless the neighborhood I grew up in with some real art that is important and relevant.”

Little Man Ice Cream Mural Celebration, 2620 16th Street, 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, June 23. Admission is free.
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