On February 23, after golf star Tiger Woods suffered multiple injuries in a single-car crash in California and went into surgery, artist Kyle Holbrook, who's currently based in Denver, decided to paint a mural with two messages: "Get Well Tiger" and "Mask Up Denver."
The mural, which was hand-painted by brush late last week at 3500 Wynkoop Street, was designed to remind us that the rollout of vaccines does not mean we should quit wearing masks during the pandemic. It's part of a larger effort of Holbrook's: the Moving the Lives of Kids Community Mural Project (MLK Mural), which has painted murals around the world.
We caught up with Holbrook to find out more about the mural and his organization.
Westword: Tell me about yourself and how you got started painting murals.
Kyle Holbrook: All my life, I wanted to be an artist. My mom and dad were both teachers who gave me encouragement from a young age. I had my daughter in college, so from nineteen years old on, making a living from being an artist was my only job. I would do murals and signs for small businesses, restaurants, corner stores and daycares, and caricatures at special events like bat mitzvahs, birthday parties and weddings. Then I was invited to do my first public mural twenty years ago, and just like a lot of things in life, it happened organically from there. The more public and highly visible the murals I did, the more opportunities they led to. Now I’ve done murals in 43 countries and 27 states.
What's Moving Lives of Kids, and how does it relate to this project?
Moving Lives of Kids is an organization I founded in 2002 that focuses on public art and three main objectives: education, youth art programs, and doing public art that brings awareness to social issues.
MLK Mural was able to provide a grant to sponsor a tour of murals through eighteen cities to promote the continued use of masks during the vaccine rollout to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
What inspired this piece?
As a society, we’ve seen one year ago a sports icon that superseded sports in Kobe Bryant dying prematurely in a helicopter crash. President Biden just made a speech addressing the country after we unfortunately reached over half a million deaths from coronavirus. The recent car crash of Tiger Woods, also a sports icon whose popularity supersedes sports — the crash shows how fragile life is. All these reasons inspired the piece.
The mural is meant to send a get-well to Tiger Woods. I put a mask on his image to further promote and remind people to continue to wear masks.
How do you feel we're doing on the mask issue as a city and state?
I think in Denver we are doing a good job, although sometimes I see groups of people — especially after drinks — they don’t have masks on and seem to have no concern. We've just got to come together in solidarity to overcome this pandemic.
Why Tiger Woods? Does he have a special connection to masks?
But this mural was more about this moment in time. In this moment, right now, using public art to spread the message of the need to continue to wear masks, and in this exact moment, Tiger Woods had just been through the accident. His image will hopefully maximize visibility to the mural, thus drawing attention to the message.
Anything else you want to speak to?
I want to encourage people to go on to the website mlkmural.com. Any youth, professional artists, teachers or volunteers can sign up utilizing the online forms, as we plan to do a lot more work. I’m here in Denver from 2021 to ’22.
For more information about Holbrook and his work, go to the Moving the Lives of Kids Community Mural Project website.
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