Some of SnowBall's best artists weren't even on stage. Among the young and the variably sober in the crowd on Saturday was a small group of artists, busily painting murals. They were situated between the two main stages, putting the eight-by-twelve feet wooden canvases at maximum visibility. The goal was to get exposure for some of Denver's best nonmusical artists. Judging by how frequently the painters were interrupted by kids wanting to discuss their work, that goal was achieved.
Daniel Chavez was one of the local artists at work. He explained that the whole project was put together by Jon Lamb and Michael Ortiz, co-founders of arts collective Like Minded Productions.
Chavez's other work appears in galleries and on buildings throughout the city. He mentioned a mural he completed at the north end of I-25 in Denver, of six portraits depicting the cultural history of the neighborhood. "Native Americans, Jews, Hispanics, Irish, and Italians," he said, referring to the cultural mix that gave north Denver its distinctive vibe.
The SnowBall piece is less straightforward. The painting, a young woman's face blurred and backdropped by a Hubble-esque image of a galaxy, was one of the more photorealistic murals at the fest. And it was remarkable; a small portrait-sized replica would sell easily in a gallery.
But what do these murals have to do with an EDM festival?
"There's a natural connection," Chavez says, adding that live art fits well with live music. The attraction to SnowBall, with its collective "fuck it, do what you want" mindset, is understandable. Of course a mural of a hula-hoop sized young girl's face in a galaxy makes sense here. Everything makes sense here. "I thought this would trip people out," Chavez added. True, true.
Jon Lamb, standing nearby, seconds Chavez's response. But that's not the only reason for the murals at SnowBall. The Like Minded director of operations has a long background making concert art, a genre that took a long time to gain legitimacy in the art community. He has made concert posters for national acts and locals, and is no stranger to this sort of combination of music and painting.
When SnowBall organizers approached Lamb, he was thrilled, especially because the crew gave the muralists the same respect they gave the musical acts. "These guys treated us way better that other festivals have in the past," he says. "They gave us whatever we wanted -- generators, extension cords, whatever -- and they put us right here in the middle of everything." He adds that this was extra important because concertgoers could actually see the progression of the murals as they were being made.
Lamb also pointed out that SnowBall's connection to the artists represents the growth of the local scene in the national spotlight. There is the obvious fact that SnowBall is a Colorado phenomenon -- keep to your goddamned desert, Coachella -- and the fact that the headlining act (Pretty Lights) is northern Colorado-bred.
"This isn't an importation, it's part of our community," Lamb says. "Denver's becoming the Napa Valley of weed and beer. We're trying to bring an artistic background to it."
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