One of the reasons that people in this post-postmodern world respond so passionately to outdoor art is its impermanence. It will not be there forever, reminding us of our own fleeting existence. And 'Duct Work, a massive mural project just completed in the viaduct space under I-70 at 46th Avenue and York Street, is definitely doomed: When the I-70 expansion project finally starts, the art will go. In the meantime, it's reinvigorated a unique urban spot in Denver.
"We want to make sure we get the whole viaduct painted eventually, so we're going to have lots of chances for more artists," says project organizer Kendall Peterson of CIG, who worked with the Colorado Department of Transportation as well as Urban Arts Fund chair Mary Valdez and Morgan Hartley of the North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative to create this massive urban-art project.
Both Peterson and Valdez have been working on getting local artists bigger and better-paying gigs every year. To find the artists for 'Duct Work, Peterson reached out to Project Colfax curator Yianni Bellis as well as Birdseed Collective's Anthony Garcia, with whom she'd worked on other mural projects on CDOT property. Together they enlisted 28 artists for this cause.
But before the artists could get to work, 'Duct Work organizers cleaned off years of caked-on pigeon-nesting mess, then installed spikes to discourage future pigeon traffic. After that, the artists got to work, creating beautiful art in a space where onlookers can enjoy it. This gritty new urban gallery is a beautiful addition to the local scene. Enjoy it while you can!
Ricks and East
Artopia curator and northside-born graffiti legend Jolt, aka Guerilla Garden, graced the viaducts with his signature grinning gorilla.
Day in the Lyfe was invited to paint a panel of the 'Duct Work project. *cue Jaws music*
Jesse Frazier, aka Faim Worldwide, painted one of his most powerful pieces to date at 'Duct Work. It's a commemorative mural inspired by the passing of a friend, whose last words were "Love wins" — which appear on the piece and constitute its title, too. "About three years ago, I lost my friend. Just for trying to be a nice guy," Frazier says. "It's still painful; this has got me thinking about it a lot more.... Earlier in the day that happened, his last Facebook post was roughly, 'When people do you wrong and bad things happen, people lose their way. Just remember that love wins.'"
Surj, a local artist currently residing in the suburbs, is working on murals again and revisiting some of his artistic tropes. This piece is titled "Chin Up," and Surj wanted the man in the painting to reflect the strength and perseverance found in this area of Denver: It gets knocked down, but gets back up again.
Thomas Scharfenberg wanted to create a mural that centered on organic, fluid shapes and would contrast directly with the sharp lines and boxy architecture seen underneath the viaducts. Gold paint is woven throughout this mural, which hits particularly close to home: Scharfenberg lives only a few blocks away.
Making old things new again, artist Paige Madden incorporated discarded objects from the neighborhood, some found or labeled as "trash" items on Craigslist. She painted these objects red and blue, then incorporated them into a piece with an anatomically correct heart and a poem written by the artist. Breathing new life into what some consider garbage mirrors the "scraping" and rebuilding this area is undergoing.
One of the busiest artists in the city this past summer, Sandra Fettingis took her repeating patterns and spread them over two large viaduct panels in this stylistic piece. She says she wanted to pull the patterns farther apart than usual, taking into account the speed at which cars fly.
Colossal artist Patrick McGregor again employs Boug, his bulldog, in this playful, cheery image. McGregor is constantly painting something new around town; last month he did an enormous Evel Knievel wall for Crush 2016.
Thomas Evans wove his signature roses around a portrait of Tanya Zanib for 'Duct Work. Evans has been celebrated this season with a new mural for Crush 2016, his photography and archaeological project "They Still Live," and an artist's residency at RedLine.
Female artists were represented in record numbers at 'Duct Work. Demi Deherrera painted a black-and-white scene titled "My Kingdom, My Bones."
Yianni Bellis used his trademark symmetry and "evil eye" to ward off evil and draw good luck to the space. His piece focused on using larger patterns with a minimalist approach, and it packs as much power as Bellis does in the Denver scene.
Chris Haven showed off four styles in what may be the most playful painting of the project, with paper airplanes gliding along the bottom, pyramid men in every color along the center cylinders of the tunnel, a rainbow target and then a classic cityscape, reminiscent of the mural he painted at Crush 2016.
Ark Artiste made a name for herself with a stunning piece in Project Colfax; she did the mural on the right.
A community member
Victoriano Rivera and friends
Tuke One and Robin Munro
Robin Munro, who also goes by the graffiti name Dread, is the founder of Colorado Crush. Tuke One is a graffiti writer and bike guru who works at Urban Cyclist.
Anthony Garcia and Victor Escobedo
Javon the Unique
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Girlie and Chris Haven