STREET GALLERY: Colfax mural project paints A-Town avenue

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AURORA | Spray paint cans rattled Saturday while the Brothers of Brass belted out saucy notes on their trumpets, tubas and trombones among brightly colored murals gracing building facades on Colfax.

“It may not be the slickest place, but the authenticity and energy of the neighborhood can’t be ignored,” said Aaron Vega, curator and facilities coordinator at The People’s Building.

Vega helped produce the street art event that drew crowds to the project along the 9900 block of East Colfax Avenue.

The first Colfax Canvas Mural Project hosted a main stage with musical acts and featured driving and walking tours following the murals that were painted by local artists. The tours gave information on the piece and the artist behind it, plus a look into the history of the buildings adorned by these eye-catching technicolor masterpieces.

Organizers estimate roughly 1,000 people attended throughout the seven hour event, with never more than 150 people at a time, allowing for safe social distancing. A security worker passed out masks in a friendly manner to those who came without.

The murals were selected and strategically placed bringing life and color to what is considered an already vibrant neighborhood.

A couple of the artists featured are household names to those familiar with the scene such as Detour, whose work has gained popularity in the metro area. His most recent work has been colorful portraits of victims of police brutality, including George Floyd and Elijah McClain.

Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police in May, setting off a national wave of protests. McClain, of Aurora, died after being confronted by police in August 2019, also becoming a point of national Black Lives Matter rallies and protests.

The event has also provided opportunities for maybe lesser known names to display their work. Artists were champing at the bit to be involved in the first Colfax Canvas Mural Project, but with limited space of 10 available walls, not everyone was able to take part officially.

Artists Tukeone and Love_Pulp found themselves in that situation but were able to paint on a wall just adjacent to The People’s Building parking lot, tightly nestled between Colfax and East 16th Avenues, making it impossible to miss for the street art and culture lovers.

The two took advantage of their space and created a mural of McClain.

It was important for these two to paint the mural of McClain on this “amazing” wall, as Tukeone called it. “This spot deserves… something special,” Tukeone said explaining their  mural’s subject matter.

“The neighborhood is also staggeringly racially diverse,” Vega said. “Art can be a valuable tool to bring voices to the table that might otherwise be left out of the conversation.”

Events like this are good for bringing together communities and putting a spotlight on artists that may not be known outside of the mainstream — they can also provide a platform for the artists to bring awareness to various social issues.

“The amazing thing about artists is that they speak on issues that people are starting to speak about,” said Ryan Foo, Director of Operations and lead producer for The Black Actors Guild, and also a producer of this project. “We’re hoping that brings some authentic and potentially difficult conversations forward.”