Art District on Santa Fe

On the first Friday of every month, Denver's Art District on Santa Fe turns into an arty party. Dozens of galleries, shops, studios and co-ops open their doors during the First Friday Art Walks to both art lovers and those who just want to join the crowd. That crowd often numbers in the thousands as people traipse along Santa Fe, stopping to talk, listen to music, grab a snack from a food truck (or pop into one of the strip's restaurants), and sometimes even look at art. The action stretches a dozen blocks south from 13th Avenue; a must-stop is the new home of the Chicano Humanities & Arts Council, at 222 Santa Fe, for a refresher course on Santa Fe's historic role as the focal point for Denver's Latino culture.

Public art in Denver tends to be supersized — so supersized that grandeur no longer seems so grand. Belgian artist Jaune, whose paintings of tiny construction workers appeared on walls up and down Brighton Boulevard during the 2018 Crush Walls festival, offers a refreshing take on public street art: one that is not meant for drivers, but rather people actually walking the streets. When you spot them, the pieces surprise and delight, but they're also reminding you that the growth Denver is experiencing isn't happening by magic. Real workers are building up the city, and in his own tiny way, Jaune is honoring them — with a healthy dose of playfulness.

Readers' Choice: Crush Walls 2018

If you're cruising the back streets of the Elyria neighborhood in north Denver, this artist house is easy to spot. It's a colorfully patterned muralistic masterpiece, augmented by painted stones and flower pots, organically placed in arrangements around the yard, with additional artifacts and found objects to fill in the spaces. In a city of McMansions and fugly slot homes, we always brake for creativity. You should, too.

Best Hidden Mural in Plain Sight
Courtesy of Robert Delaney

Although many Denver streets boast stunning murals, L.A. artist Shrine's wraparound treatment of Sweatshop's studio compound in the Arts District on Santa Fe is still a standout. It's a bold, orderly composition in red, black and yellow, adorned by dingbat-style symbols, tucked next to Metropolitan State University of Denver's Center for Visual Art. You can spot it from the street as you walk along Santa Fe Drive, but to appreciate the full effect, step into the plaza between the buildings. Then remember to drop in at the CVA, too.

instagram.com/shrineon

Jeremy Burns is a lenticular image genius, known for his clever "Larimer Boy" and "Larimer Girl," and his latest large-scale offering definitely looks different depending on where you stand. His canvas this time was the Pepsi Bottling Company off Brighton Boulevard, and the huge mural depicts a form mid-step, but the shading and different color blocks of red, yellow, blue and green make that form less obvious to detect. Burns, who has lived in RiNo for the past fifteen years, started the piece during Crush Walls 2018 but didn't finish until later in the fall. It was definitely worth the wait.

Art provided a critical building block for the Dairy Block and its centerpiece, the Maven Hotel, which both display carefully curated collections. To see them, start in the Alley, the block's cushy secret passageway, where you can sip a drink from the bar as you look in awe at the art or even interact with it. Then cruise the Maven lobby, which displays work by fifteen Denver-centric artists, from Chris Bagley's dreamy video installation to Michael Dowling's history-focused ghost images in the elevators. Make a reservation and you'll find even more art — not only on the walls, but also in guest-room details, including mugs by Kaelin Tillery and glassware by Kevin Davis.

Chris Haven's work often contains masterful repetition, impressive line work and bold characters: his "pyramid people." What distinguishes his new piece in Five Points, which he painted in July 2018, is its size and striking black-and-white aesthetic. The mural wraps around the building, covering each brick with careful shapes made from spray paint. Haven, who's originally from Westminster, uses his art as commentary for the environment around him. See what details (and pyramid people!) you can find in Haven's paint.

Readers' Choice: Jaime Molina and Pedro Barrios at Cerveceria Colorado

Best Wheat-Paste Artist With a Humanitarian Message

Frank Kwiatkowski

Frank Kwiatkowski's wheat-pastes are unmistakable: linocut-printed swirls of wobbly lines cross-cut with multiple colored stripes, which are then affixed to vacant surfaces with a water, sugar and flour concoction. But it's the content of his work that's so distinct: The artist creates vignettes of human interaction on the street, with commentary on environmentalism, class warfare, sobriety, homelessness, health care and gentrification. The world Kwiatkowski captures under a thin layer of wheat paste is undoubtedly inspired by his view of the city from the pedicab he drives — an occupation that makes the artist, like his art, a downtown fixture.

thekwiatkowskipress.com

Creative powerhouse Deanne Gertner wanted to find a way to direct-market work by Denver's artist community while bypassing the middleman. The result was Hey Hue, which made its debut last summer in a truck parked on the fringe of the Underground Music Showcase in the Baker neighborhood. Since then, Gertner's continued to market pieces both in and out of the truck, always displaying a palette of work that represents a wide cross-section of emerging artists. The kicker? Each piece in Hey Hue's truck shows and pop-ups is priced at $200 or less, helping would-be collectors get in gear.

heyhueart.com

"Albert Canstein," made by inmates at the Trinidad Correctional Facility.
Courtesy Rodney Wood
"Albert Canstein," made by inmates at the Trinidad Correctional Facility.

Talk about vroom service! Trinidad is now an officially designated Colorado Creative District, and art cars have helped put the town back on the map. It started when Trinidad denizen Rodney Wood and his friends began throwing the annual ArtoCade art-car parade on the main drag, then realized that for the event to really rev up, they needed to solve two problems: where to store the art-car collection and how to bring curious folks to Trinidad year-round. Their solution? The Art Cartopia Museum, a true roadside attraction right off I-25, which invites curious travelers to ogle the rolling art pieces and listen to a few wacky stories from the volunteer crew that runs the currently free attraction. Once you spot Joerilla, the gargantuan gorilla blow-up, you'll know where to go.

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