July 29, 2021
Community Spotlight: Black Love Mural Festival: An Interview with Curator, Robert Gray
Now in its second year, the Black Love Mural Festival (BLMF) is taking place in Civic Center Park, sharing messages of Black empowerment and Black Identity through public art. Curated by Denver-based artist Robert Gray (Rob the Art Museum), the idea for the festival came about while cleaning up after the protests that took place in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in 2020. Rob wanted a way for Black artists to visually share their social messages with the community. We emailed Rob to learn more about the Black Love Mural Festival which is now an annual expression of love in the city.
Hi Rob! How have you been doing?
I'm doing well but not great. Extremely grateful for all the opportunities but I need to focus on my mental health sooner than later.
We’re excited to see Black Love Mural back in Civic Center Park for the 2nd year. Could you share with us what inspired you to create the festival in 2020?
I created the BLMF to provide a way for Black creatives to express themselves during the biggest civil rights movement in history.
How many artists participated (participate) in the festival?
We're at a collective total of 60 artists in two years.
How did you connect with your artists?
The first year was curated between myself and co-founder Annie Phillips. She has been active in the art scene for 10+ years and is diverse in her curation. This year, I hand selected each artist for every opportunity.
Can you talk about how the MLB All-Star Game coming to Denver added to this year’s festival?
The MLB all-star game contributed to the festival by creating 15+ opportunities for creatives to create baseball-themed art. It provided us with extra paid opportunities for artists and inspired artists because they had a chance to work with such a big name. Each artist brought their A-game and knocked the opportunity out of the park!
Why do you think it is important to create community events like Black Love Mural Festival?
It's important to highlight and support communities/minority groups and provide them a safe place. We must highlight the special things that communities are doing because we must be the change we want to see in the world. If Black creatives are not treated fairly or getting the exposure we deserve, let's showcase our talent and let them know how dope we are. A great community event I'm a big fan of is Babe Walls, which is an all-women and non-binary mural festival. Alexandra Pang does a great job organizing this event that highlights the amazing talent of that community.
You are the Creative Director and Founder of Rob the Art Museum and collaborate with your creative partner, Annie Phillips for IRL Art. Both seem to be driven by making art more accessible and producing events around public art. Can you share a little about the mission (or focus) of Rob the Art Museum and IRL art?
IRL Art is where I had a chance to learn large-scale curation. I had the chance to learn from a smart, creative, and kind woman named Annie. She started as my mentor and is now my best friend and business partner. IRL Art is a community of artists which is as diverse as it gets. We can handle anything art-related but specialize in booking artists for pop-up galleries, music festivals, and any other event. We specialize in alt-art, blockchain technology, and things you don't typically see in a gallery.
I started Rob The Art Museum as an art collective that didn't work out. It started as a call to action and me telling the public "Rob The Art Museum." Rob The Art Museum is about making art accessible to the masses because art is becoming a thing of the elite. Art is so powerful it can affect the rich and the poor and everyone in between. Our only role is to make sure it is accessible to the masses. We focus on public art at events because it brings us joy to be around the art, we can be creative and we can help our friends get paid opportunities.
Why do you think public art is important for communities?
It's a representation of our communities. It's being so proud of the history, the story, the art that we put it on the side of a building. It encourages us to go outside and take in the fresh air and elements. It engages, educates, and inspires, which is the foundation of everything we do.
Anything I missed?! What should we know about?
Please check out our social media for updates and new exhibits and events around town.