Art doesn't simply reflect reality – it shapes reality. To that end, our street-art lists exist for one purpose: to shine a light on deserving creatives who have effected visual change across the state. Some of the featured artists are natives, while others are just passing through. They've devoted their lives to their art, much of which is immortalized on local buildings.
Here are 25 amazing murals, listed in chronological order, that were painted this year.
1. Alexander Orion
Broadway and Speer Boulevard, Cherry Creek bike path
Brazilian street artist Alexander Orion painted two amazing "forced perspective" murals along the Cherry Creek bike path during his visit to Colorado. "In my vision, the surface divides the nature that's right here and alive from this crazy, chaotic way of living," said Orion in an interview withWestword earlier this fall. Orion stayed in Denver about a month over the summer and partnered with Mary Valdez and the Urban Arts Fund to decorate the area, one that Valdez hopes to turn into an urban art walk that spans the entire path (a tenet of Imagine 2020, Denver's cultural plan). "Paramount" includes work from Anduriel Widmark and Patrick McGreggor, Orion's friends.
2. Andrew Hoffman
5126 East Colfax Avenue, Bellwether
We love the vibes Andrew Hoffman added to the black walls of East Colfax cool center Bellwether. Originally from Bailey, Colorado, Hoffman is a master of folk art, digital design and illustration; he is a cross between a painter and a meticulous, modern printmaker. Hoffman is also well known for designing concert posters, having made some for the Foo Fighters, Devil Makes Three, Bouncing Souls, Fuzz and Thee Oh Sees when they came to Denver this year. As one of our 100 Colorado Creatives, Hoffman told Westword's Susan Froyd: "Denver is doing a great job being the cultural hub of this region of the United States. The amount of progress this city has made in the past seven years that I have lived here is incredible."
Villa Park was the lucky recipient of this mural by Anthony Garcia Sr. and Thomas Evans, local artists and a powerhouse collaborative duo. The model depicted is Lil' Fresh Sam, a fashion designer who splits her time between L.A. and Denver. In this piece, Evans and Garcia's styles combine effortlessly in the center: the roses and portrait by Evans are sewn into the fabric of Garcia's signature stripes. Don't miss another piece, by Evans, on the wall of Nocturne, painted during Colorado Crush 2016.
6791 West Colfax Avenue, Arc Thrift Store
Michael Roy, aka Birdcap, is an artist from a small Southern Baptist town in Mississippi, and works out of Memphis, Tennessee. Roy came to town to paint during the 40 West Arts District mural fest, as well as Colorado Crush 2016, with fellow Tennessee street artist Nosey. "The piece is a painting of Osiris, from ancient Egypt. I was listening to Stephen Fry’s audio book of Harry Potter during the install," Roy explains, "and at some point, I changed the name to Legilimens. Legilimens in Harry Potter were wizards who could read the minds of others. That’s sort of what the piece is about. I like mixing disparate mythologies, too. Ancient Egyptian myth is classically rooted and amazing. Harry Potter is just a contemporary myth I could relate to growing up with." Roy also created a little doughnut dude at Winchell's, directly across from the piece at Arc, during his stay. He did it for the free doughnuts. "I had a lot of people come ask me about the meaning of the mural during the install, and more often than not they had their own guesses. I think art ends up tricking people into explaining themselves inadvertently as they try to define the work of art. So the piece sort of dissects the viewer."
5.. Blaine Fontana
Speer Boulevard and Champa Street, Cherry Creek bike path
Another stunning addition to the outdoor gallery that is the Cherry Creek bike path is Portland-based artist Blaine Fontana's mural, which he painted in September after finishing his piece on Ratio Beerworks during Colorado Crush 2016. The mural spans 9' x 25', is composed of acrylic and aerosol, and sits beautifully beneath Sculpture Park. The Cherry Creek bike path will someday become a fully painted art walk, thanks to Denver Arts & Venues and the Urban Arts Fund.
Black and white, which is rarely used by the colorful Peruvian-born, Montreal-based artist Chris Dyer, is the color palette of his final collaborative mural in Colorado, which he painted this summer with artist Jack Shure. The mural is on the new Moniker Artwear Gallery, which opened on September 2. Moniker Artwear, a lifestyle brand out of Boulder, hosted an art show with paintings by Shure, a Colorado native whose work melds psychedelic-rock art and Salvador Dali's "The Persistence of Memory." Dyer's and Shure's styles melted together like trippy clocks.
7. Creatures Crew Fifteenth Anniversary
Various locations, Pueblo
The Creatures Crew artists came out in a big way this fall to celebrate their fifteenth anniversary. Twenty-six powerhouse artists were involved in the project, including Jher, Grips, Refic, Sant, Vogey, Eaks, Detour, Noche, Sloke, Critik, Awful, Soer, Ikon, Jive, Drift, Beast and documentarian crew members Dave Foto and The Art of Style. Founding member Vogey told Bombing Science this year how the group's name came to be. Jher personally commemorated the life of his friend, the late graffiti writer, DJ and rapper Ant One.
8. El Chan Guri
2675 West 38th Avenue, Urban Dispensary
El Chan Guri, aka Luis Valle, is an artist based out of Miami. While he was in town for a show at Alto Gallery and Colorado Crush 2016, Valle made a quick stop to paint a mural on the wall of Highland pot shop Urban Dispensary. His style, dotted stream-of-consciousness, is meant to reflect the connected nature of energy, and he frequently reflects on native cultures. Valle told Westword: "I get influenced by all kinds of indigenous native societies, from African to pre-Colombian to Polynesian. All tribal indigenous cultures have a lot of similarities in the way they live, in their artwork, so it's just meant to reflect all of those different places in the world."
An impressive mural on the east-facing wall of the building that holds Talulah Jones, commissioned by Leon Gallery, was painted by artists Forrest J. Morrison and Travis Hetman earlier this year, and is deserving of praise. Morrison is also painting a beautiful piece at Youth on Record, 1301 West 10th Avenue. Be sure to admire both in person!
10. Jaime Molina and Pedro Barrios
1515 Market Street, 1515 Restaurant
Jaime Molina and Pedro Barrios, a beloved artistic duo and self-proclaimed "worst crew" (add Joseph Martinez and they're called Palabros), have created a ton of amazing pieces in Denver this year. Some of their biggest and gutsiest murals include a six-story sleeping Cutty on 2890 Brighton Boulevard and a work-in-progress mural at 1515 Restaurant, which is being created in collaboration with the Denver Art Museum and sponsored by Bellco. This is the first reincarnation of this wall in over a decade.
Molina says inspiration for the piece was taken from the Denver Art Museum itself. "The kids exhibits were very interactive. They were kind of deconstructing whatever it is that they were showing. There's a station for stop-motion animation; you can make your own movie as a kid. It seemed like all the exhibits were empowering kids. This whole concept is illustrating a grownup passing that knowledge on to a younger person so they can construct their own world and their own reality. There was an old piece; it's 1515's wall, but the museum has been putting murals on this wall for a really long time." The most recent was a Renoir reproduction, but that washed out over the course of twelve years. It's nice to see the bright colors and positive energy that Molina and Barrios's piece brings to the block.
11. Jolt, aka Guerilla Garden
Alleyway at 7th Avenue and Santa Fe Drive
While Jolt's Internet persona tends to stir the pot, Westword has nothing but love for the 2017 Artopia curator and his newest mural in the Art District on Santa Fe. The monster sits in the alleyway of seventh Avenue and Santa Fe Drive, close to the graffiti vet's home (Jolt has lived in the area for the past several years, even though he originally hails from the north side). Learn more about his new project and graffiti and homeless culture in the Art District on Santa Fe in West Side Walls.
12. Kevin Hennessy and Community
226 East 13th Avenue, Buffalo Exchange
The Cap Hill community has an altar. Kevin Hennessy, acclaimed local muralist and Landmark Tattoo artist, created this memorial piece in late August in memory of all that the community had lost this past year, in particularJeff Hyland of Ironwood Design Collective, who died by suicide this summer. "This dude served a role, as just being a friend to a lot of people in Cap Hill and the Denver art community," Hennessy says. "The ambition for this work came along almost like, what the fuck is wrong with this world? Why do so many people feel un-cared for? What's wrong with that picture? Two other people killed themselves that previous week. Jeff [Hyland] is the person I lost out of those three. It sucks I never got to say goodbye." Hennessy continues, "Being someone who doesn't know how to have the conversation about death, I know how to paint and I know how to draw. I invited anyone who I felt like I could have that conversation with — it ended up being ten people. It's just a bunch of people writing the names of people they love and lost."
The exterior of the Madame Venus Travelers Inn, formerly a brothel, was remastered by four talented Colorado artists: Mathew Taylor, Kevin Hennessy, Jae Morrison and Joshua Soto, who have revitalized Pueblo's street-art scene.
Continue reading to see twelve more of the best new murals in Colorado in 2016.
14. Lolo YS
3675 Wynkoop Street, Helikon Gallery
Lauren YS Illustration is based out of San Francisco but never ceases to show Denver love with her murals. One of her most ambitious pieces to date is "The Archer," on the north-facing wall of RiNo's Helikon Gallery. "Some lovely ladies came by while I was painting and said she looked like Lakota," Lauren YS wrote on Instagram. "I was hoping the image of a rad bow-wielding woman would be pretty universal, and was therefore happy they saw some of themselves in her!"
15. Mathew Taylor
Pueblo Arts Museum
Matthew Taylor blew past all expectations with his largest mural to date, "The Wall of Wonder," which is on the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center in Pueblo. The piece is an imaginative wonderland of colors that invites visitors into the center. Taylor had sixteen days to complete the enormous project. "It's a mixture of southern Colorado, Pueblo, and the arts center and children's museum," Taylor says. "I think interest was spread across all age groups. I had kids and adults sit and watch me for extended periods, taking in the process of such a large-scale work."
16. Mike Graves
1950 West 32nd Avenue, Occidental
The back patio of the cool north-side bar Occidental, which is the hip twin-sister bar of Williams & Graham, has become a circus thanks to artist Mike Graves, whose wide range of character-obsessed murals doesn't go unnoticed in the Mile High City. Graves completed the piece three months ago, just before launching into a killer collaboration with Scribe for Colorado Crush 2016.
17. Molly Bounds
51 Broadway, Buffalo Exchange
Molly Bounds made time in her busy summer schedule to paint a mural on the south-facing wall of Buffalo Exchange on Broadway. Bounds is a master of contemporary pop art and uses bright colors to alter the viewer's expectations of her overtly feminine, somewhat awkward subjects. Bounds lovingly refers to the piece on Buffalo Exchange as #spacelady on Instagram.
This group of artists did not disappoint with their latest reincarnation of the wall behind the Molecule Effect at 12th Avenue and Santa Fe Drive. Guest artist Chris Dyer added a dinosaur to the evolutionary-themed wall while he was in town for Colorado Crush 2016.
19. Oliver Vernon
Colfax Avenue and Speer Boulevard, Cherry Creek bike path
Oliver Vernon has been in the arts scene since 2005, showing his work in galleries in New York, Toronto and the David B. Smith gallery in Denver. Mary Valdez of the Denver Arts & Venues team secured this wall for Vernon when he was in town this August. God bless this explosive mess.
20. Ozjuah Sepia
Alleyway at 40th Avenue and Colorado Boulevard
The Ozjuahzian universe is alive and well in the streets of Denver, thanks to the wild and creative murals by artist Ozjuah Sepia. Her latest mural features an array of characters that are meaningful to her, including Ozjuahan Frida Khalo, Pinup, Viking, Freedom Fighter, Cherry Princess, Bird Queen and Guardian. Sepia was also featured as one of the ten most amazing new murals of 2016 (so far).
"With everything that's going on now, I feel really good to be able to spread a positive message," Pat Milbery says about the Love This City project, which incorporates designs he had worked on for two years without knowing he'd be approached by Visit Denver and Denver Arts Week for the series. The project boasts three murals so far, which are on the Denver Art Museum complex, El Noa Noa and the Unleaded Group (pictured above). But the project could expand to more buildings.
Other artist collaborators include Pat McKinney, Remington Robinson and Jason Graves.
22. Sandi Calistro
1700 East Evans Avenue, Jelly U
Jelly U in the University 'hood commissioned Sandi Calistro for a mural earlier this year and asked her to run with a Beetlejuice theme. Calistro's style jived particularly well with these guidelines (though at her level, she tends to work with ultimate creative freedom). Thank you for giving Denver your spin on the classic film, Sandi!
23. Scott Albrecht, Kaitlyn Tucek Tripodi and Anthony Benedetto
3750 Chestnut Place, Blue Moon Brewery's Taproom
Blue Moon Brewing's big beer hall in RiNo boasts a ton of artwork that helps it blend into the neighborhood the best it can thanks to a piece by Scott Albrecht, Kaitlyn Tucek Tripodi and Anthony Benedetto. The Blue Moon mural on the far right of the piece was painted by Anthony Garcia Sr., Victor Escobedo and Tom Bond, but its floral-meets-gecko scene was not their design.
24. Thomas Evans
2350 Arapahoe Street, RedLine
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Thomas Evans is one of the newest resident artists at RedLine gallery and blessed its east-facing wall with a new mural – that he painted in a week. There's no time to waste when you have a steady flow of commissioned art, much of which can be seen at Meadowlark Kitchen. Read a full interview with Evans, who made the ranks of the 100 Colorado Creatives this year.
25. Yulia Avgustinovich
Santa Fe Drive and West Alameda Avenue
Yulia Avgustinovich painted this beautiful nature scene on the south-facing wall behind Stranahan's Whiskey with colorful pastels in an Old West style. "Viva Colorado" incorporates elements unique to Colorado, including the state animal (bighorn sheep), the state bird (the lark bunting) and the state insect (a Colorado hairstreak butterfly).