Only 72 hours after Rob the Art Museum and IRL Art came up with the ambitious idea, they launched the Black Love Mural Festival in Civic Center Park with support from the City of Denver. That was back in early June, just as the Black Lives Matter protests were picking up speed across the street by the Capitol.
Robert Gray (creative director of Rob the Art Museum) and IRL Art founder Annie Phillips chose twenty Black artists to paint murals around statues and monuments in the park, protecting them at the same time they were expressing their own message in art, and also with passersby who watched them create the work.
“I want the artists to be able to educate people about what they are going through at this moment, why this is a form of self-expression, and why they decided to go with their particular image,” explained Gray, as he oversaw the action.
Now, after two extensions that took the festival far past its original June 30 end date, it will finally end with a closing blowout as elaborately organized as the initial kickoff was not. From 5 to 10 p.m. on Friday, August 7, Civic Center Park will be transformed into an open-air art market/festival celebrating Colorado’s Black creatives. Each artist involved in the festival will have their work on display, and prints will be for sale; there will also be interactive art-making stations, live musical performances, comedic acts and an immersive project/light show.
While this event is free, the artists are being compensated for their work with the festival. The initial twenty will be covered by a Denver Parks and Recreation grant, Gray says; fifteen additional artists who reached out online or simply walked up and joined in will be compensated from money raised through poster sales and the festival's GoFundMe site, which will be up until August 10. (Anyone who contributes on August 7 will automatically get a poster, Gray says.)
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When the site shuts down, the festival will not end: According to Gray, plans are already in the works to return next year, and the city has given permission for the festival to again use Civic Center Park.
But first comes the closing celebration for this successful initial festival. Find all the details, including the entertainment schedule, on the Black Love Mural Festival Facebook page.
And watch a video of the project here: