The River North Art District, known for its collection of murals and street art as much as its rapid gentrification, will get a fresh coat of paint this fall as the Crush Walls festival returns to Denver.
Unlike indoor events, Crush Walls has always been about that social distancing — of artists from viewers, of canvases from people. The event brings dozens of local and international artists to the area each year to fill walls with murals and street art, livening up businesses and dormant buildings while offering pedestrians a route of exploration.
This week, the festival announced a Sept. 14-20 return to the area just northeast of downtown Denver, with a roster of 100 artists lined up to paint 40 murals.
“It’s all about collaboration this year, and we have organized several artist teams,” said founder Robin Munro in a press statement.
However, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, event organizers are taking numerous new health and safety steps while carefully watching government guidelines, they said. Crush Walls put out its call to artists for its 11th installment earlier this year and received more than 730 applications before its April 28 deadline.
“It was a very different world when we put out the first call for entries,” said Tracy Weil, RiNo Art District executive director. “The COVID-19 crisis started to hit in mid-March. As hundreds of applications poured in, we really weren’t sure how things would look this year and what measures we would have to take to put on our event.”
Munro pitched Crush Walls as a way of getting artists back to work in a time when so many aren’t. However, this year’s events will be “scaled back considerably due to reduced sponsorship dollars” contributed to the event by business owners in suffering from a loss of sales and income.
“Curation was very competitive this year given the situation at hand with contributions and event parameters,” according to a press statement. “All artists who are a part of Crush Walls are paid to create their work, and more artists may be selected if the event can raise additional dollars for artist stipends.”
This year’s scaled-back events include artist panels, mural tours and youth activities, many of which will move to a virtual platform. However, as in past years, organizers promised a “censor-free platform” for artists to express their thoughts on social issues such as Black Lives Matter.
Even partner Two Parts is curating this year’s self-guided walking tours, online artist content, and social distancing plans at the Spray Can Bar (in the Denver Central Market parking lot) and all mural viewing areas.
For more information and updates, visit crushwalls.org.