Art News

Illegal Pete's Rolling Out RE:FRESH for 25th Anniversary

Pete Turner by a portrait of his great-great-grandfather, painted by Grant Wood.
courtesy Pete Turner
Pete Turner by a portrait of his great-great-grandfather, painted by Grant Wood.
The pandemic is no time to celebrate a 25th anniversary. So Pete Turner, who founded Illegal Pete's in Boulder in 1995 after graduating from the University of Boulder, executed the proverbial pivot.

He put any big party plans on hold while strategizing how to keep both workers and customers safe at his chain of a dozen burrito eateries, which stretch from Fort Collins to Tucson. But Illegal Pete's emphasizes cultural as well as culinary communities, and as Turner looked at how he could improve his restaurants, he decided to partner with a variety of local artists to further enhance them.

The result is RE:FRESH, a year-long project designed in collaboration with arts producer Annie Geimer, who's worked with Meow Wolf, the Denver Theatre District and more. “If we plan on making these ongoing improvements to help our business anyway," Turner notes, "let's include creatives to make it more interesting and have some fun.”

The project got an early start in May 2020, when Olive Moya painted her "IT'S OK NOT TO BE OK" mural on the University of Denver store at 1744 East Evans Avenue.
As RE:FRESH rolled out in earnest this year, artist Moe Gram added to the redo of that location, leaving Moya's message of hope in front but brightening the back spaces, where staffers often take breaks and customers park.

Next up was a new look for the Park Hill outpost at 2230 Oneida Street, created by Ellie Lindsey, a recent graduate of the Denver School of the Arts.

The rollouts will continue through the year, each offering a different artist's take.

Early on, Illegal Pete's focused on pushing the local music scene. Through the years, the company has not only helped local musicians with everything from free meals to on-site shows and recordings, but supported organizations ranging from Youth on Record to Pop Culture Classroom, the High Plains Comedy Festival and DUSK Music Festival in Tucson. RE:FRESH adds an emphasis on visual art.

And Turner comes by that interest honestly: Back in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, his great-great-grandfather helped support a then-unknown artist, Grant Wood, who lived and painted in Turner Mortuary's carriage house. It was there that he painted "American Gothic" — not to mention a portrait of John B. Turner.

Find out more about RE:FRESH here.