Art for all

From wall-sized postcards to optical illusions, public art turns Denver into a giant gallery

Belen Ward
bward@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 4/20/21

For New York-born artist Victor Ving, Colorado looks like craft beer, skiers and Red Rocks Amphitheatre. “At each stop, I collaborate with local artists, businesses, and residents to create a piece …

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Art for all

From wall-sized postcards to optical illusions, public art turns Denver into a giant gallery

Posted

For New York-born artist Victor Ving, Colorado looks like craft beer, skiers and Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

“At each stop, I collaborate with local artists, businesses, and residents to create a piece of true public art that engages the local community,” said Ving.

The result of his effort is plain for all to see: His mural “Greetings from Denver” located at 1695 Platte St. is one of 40 murals Ving has created across the country, offering his take — a vintage postcard view painted on public buildings, as a salute to the cities he visits.

It’s one of the many street-facing artworks commissioned by the City of Denver, picked by a local panel and free to see, just for the looking. The city of Denver holds a collection of over 400 pieces of art in a variety of media — some combine sight and sound, others are light-based works or interactive new media, temporary fiber-based works or performance-based works. The collections are spread throughout the city.

Public art in cities boosts the economy, culturally and socially, according to the City of Denver’s Denver Arts and Venues Public Art program. Public art creates a history of the past, present, and future. Within a neighborhood, public art creates uniqueness in the space as a community grows.

Established by Mayor Federico Pena in 1988 via an executive order, the Denver Public Art Program sets aside 1% of any capital improvement project over $1 million is set aside for public art. For more than 30 years, the city has developed a collection of artworks and accepted donations of art. According to the city’s rules, the collection must be a permanent structure to amplify the space. The artists represent a wide range of cultural diversity and are selected in a transparent process by a panel of community members who live and work near the project site.

The panel writes the “call for entry,” reviews the application, and the project site. Then the panel selects the artists and interviews the semifinalist and finalist. Once the artists or groups are selected, the selection is forwarded to the Public Art Committee and the Commission on Cultural Affairs to make the final decision. Denver Arts & Venues plans the public art program and the Mayor’s Commission on Cultural Affairs administrators the activities and policies regarding public art.

Travels with Victor

Ving, from New York City, started his nationwide “Greetings Tour” in 2015. He travels full-time in his RV, working to create the landmark murals in each city. The artwork resembles a postcard capturing the cities and communities.

Ving is a former New York City graffiti artist and the founder of Klughaus, a creative agency specializing in large-scale mural art.

“The ‘Greetings from Chinatown’ mural in New York City was painted in 2014, was the first piece I did where we noticed the potential of how much our artwork can positively affect the community,” said Ving.

“I went on a West Coast road trip later that summer and was inspired by others that I saw living on the road. I decided to take a chance to paint and travel full time. I hit the road in spring 2015 and have been loving the lifestyle since.”

Ving lets his travel schedule determine his next project.

“My travels are loosely based around our commissioned project schedule,” he said. “If there are cities along the way that I connect with, I’ll try to make those murals happen en route to the next destination.

“My current priority is creating murals in states where we have not painted in yet. The larger goal is to eventually paint in all 50 states and then take the project global. This is the way I make a living and it is my full-time job. However, from time to time I have donated my services to some good causes that align with my values and mission.”

The public art show continues. Just down the street in an alley, a half-block north, is the “Denver 1859” mural. It’s painted by Delton Demarest and Harrison Nealey using an aerosol can with an array of colors to paint the history of Denver since 1859.

Demarest is a graffiti artist and a freelance illustrator working in the commercial and fine arts industries. Nealey is a metal fabricator by trade and creates abstract art using a variety of mediums and found objects.

Louvered illusion

At Larimer and 27th Street, the mural “Larimer Boy and Girl” was painted by artist Jeremy Burns on a building exterior that is a full vertical concrete louver. That means that depending on the viewer’s perspective you either see a boy with a bewildered expression on his face or a gloomy girl. Burns has been living and creating art in the RiNo district since 2004.

Santa Fe Arts District

On the corner of 9th Avenue and Santa Fe Drive is the “Mermaid,” painted by Access Gallery students Josiah Lee Lopez and Ratha Sok. Access Gallery is a Santa Fe Drive program for people with disabilities to have artistic opportunities around Denver. The mermaid is painted on the corner of the building with colorful flowing hair appearing as though she’s swimming in the ocean.

Lopez has been working for more than 29 years and started his passion for drawing and painting when in high school. He has been a graffiti writer and muralist since mid-1990. He received his bachelor of fine arts from Metropolitan State University and a master of fine arts from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Both Lopez and Sok have been students with Access Gallery for about eight years.

“I work at Access Gallery as a mentor and teaching artist and worked at Access for about 11 years,” said Lopez.

Lopez said gallery managers simply wanted the pair to create something colorful.

“So we came up with the ‘Sirens’ of Ninth Avenue,” Lopez said. “The Ninth Avenues Sirens, awaking from slumber, observing from afar, and emerging from oceanic morning tide. Their colorful tresses are the protectors of the ever-changing West Side.”

Lopez paints a mural every five years at 10th and Santa Fe in the alleyway behind Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Center for Visual Arts and another mural under the Sixth Avenue bridge at Sixth and Lipan.

His website is www.josiahleelopez.com, said Lopez.

Farther down in the next block off Santa Fe Drive is the “Smiling Boy” in an alley between Santa Fe Drive and Inca Street. The artist goes by the street name B.L.V.D. Artist B.L.V.D painted a stunning large mural of a boy with his arms extended across the outside of the building.

On the east side of Denver at East Colfax Avenue and High Street, a mural of George Floyd was painted by artists Detour aka Thomas Evans and Hiero Veiga. The mural was painted after Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. Evans is an artist with a focus on the innovation of art. Veiga is a graffiti artist from the South Shore of Massachusetts traveling the world creating murals.

For information to apply for Denver Public Art opportunities, visit www.callforentry.org or call the Public Art Program at 720-865-5563.

Art, murals, Denver

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