September 15, 2020
CRUSH WALLS 2020
The CRUSH WALLS 2020 festival is happening this week, September 14-20! Perhaps you’ve been one of many who has attended this annual festival for the past 11 years or perhaps you’re wondering what CRUSH WALLS is and how you can partake in this festival with the current state of the world and the COVID-19 pandemic.
We chatted with Alexandrea Pangburn, the RiNo Made Program Director and CRUSH artist, about this week’s festivities, empowering artists, and creating community through street art.
What is CRUSH? Give us the lowdown! What can folks expect from the annual event this year with COVID-19 and safety concerns?
CRUSH is an annual celebration of art, transforming the streets and alleys of RiNo into permanent, open-air galleries. CRUSH celebrates art, creativity, and culture by enriching our community through an arts festival like no other. We believe that public art leads to an improved community as a catalyst for safety, cleanliness, creativity, and conversation. Centered around empowering artists, CRUSH is committed to reflecting and diversifying the urban landscape and the unique voice of a community, bringing art out of the galleries and into the streets.
Founded by Denver artist Robin Munro, CRUSH has been taking over the streets of the RiNo neighborhood since 2010. With a passion for graffiti and street art as well as his community, Munro aimed to create an event that showcases the amazing artistic talents he saw not only in Denver, but also across the world.
The RiNo Art District defines itself as a community "Where Art is Made” and CRUSH embodies this mantra by celebrating the craft of graffiti and street artists who bring life to walls while maintaining the unique cultural identity in this rapidly evolving community.
COVID-19 presents many challenges to our festival and events, and it’s top of our mind to keep everyone safe and healthy. We’re confident that we can host CRUSH and create community in the face of the virus. Here’s a few ways we plan to make sure CRUSH is safe and sanitary:
SPACING - Since we take over the entire RiNo Art District, space is plentiful. We will be doing our part to make sure artists receive the proper amount of space between each other and there will be ample areas for attendees to walk, pass each other with ease, all while enjoying the art around them. The main CRUSH alley behind the Denver Central Market will be closed to the public during the day as to leave space for our artists and local businesses to thrive for the week.
AWARENESS - We’re all in this together, so please do your part to keep others safe. Please wear your mask and try your best to keep a 6-foot distance between you and others. There will be ample sanitizing stations throughout the festival, but we encourage you to also bring your own hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes if you have them.
EVENTS - We scaled back significantly with our events, but have three artist panels, a kids workshop, and a munny designing workshop. Each panel will be streamed virtually and the kids workshop has a virtual component.
SPRAY CAN BAR - Our Spray Can Bar will be cans only and we’re working to implement a plan with our staff to ensure the safety of everyone. This includes proper spacing and proper hygiene guidelines for bartenders and customers.
Who are the artists you’re working with? How do you support these artists and what are ways that folks can support artist’s work, especially during this current moment?
This year we’re really excited to be able to highlight so many local artists. With COVID closing international borders, it was really our goal to bring local collaborations in addition to some national artists. National artists El Mac and Hoxxoh will be collaborating on the back of The Ramble Hotel on a show-stopping piece. We’ve been working with local artist Detour to be able to bring in a few members of The Black Out Crew (Sydney James, Max Sansing, BakPak Durden, Hiero Veiga) to do a couple of installations which we’re really excited about. We have a local collaboration, Taste with New York artist, Aerosol Kingdom which will bring an impactful piece to the corner of Larimer and Broadway. We’re bringing back a number of previous years artists such as Gregg Deal and Birdcap. Birdcap will be collabing with local artist Mike Graves in the EXDO Alley. This year we have numerous womxn artists, including a slew from the local Babe Walls collective. It was important for CRUSH to be inclusive and constantly raise the bar for equality within a mural festival. This was our first year partnering with CSU and six artists from their masters program, they will be doing an installation on the north side of 70 in Globeville.
Each year, CRUSH prides itself on the ability to pay the artists a stipend, take care of their paint supplies, and provide any lifts that may be necessary. The public can help support these artists by tagging the artist (#tagtheartist) in photos of their work. The artists ultimately have full rights to their work and it’s important to credit our creatives. There are a slew of events during CRUSH, three of which are panels highlighting representation, graffiti, and artist rights. The event information can be found on the website at www.crushwalls.org.
The event transforms the streets and alleys of RiNo, creating work that can be experienced by both those who happen upon it or intentionally seek it out. Why is it important to make art accessible in the way of bringing art to the streets?
Street Art is such a powerful medium because you’re creating something that will be seen by people that seek it out and people that are just passing by. Our role as artists is to decide what to do with this platform. Whether it’s creating a message for those that don’t have a voice or creating something that we as artists are passionate about. CRUSH has really been the instigator for the outdoor gallery in RiNo and we’re lucky to have such a supportive community that allows for our artists to be uncensored and be able to flex their creativity to bring something new to a passer-byers day and hopefully spark a conversation.
What is the impact of graffiti art compared to other mediums?
Graffiti art is THE foundation of CRUSH. It’s a form of art that is an outlet and expression for artists that bring togetherness and connectivity to the community around them. Graffiti has always been and is still representative of cultural and political issues based on the artists within the community and its identity. It’s one of the oldest forms of art and can be traced back to cave drawings, so it’s important for viewers to respect and educate themselves on this culture, because it has helped define street art into what it is today.
What is the value of public art installations and art festivals such as CRUSH? What have you experienced from years past that inspire you to continue this work?
Public art is probably the most powerful form of art. I know as an artist myself, I’ve always been a little shy about showing my art to the public, and to be able to be given the opportunity to put my art on the walls of the streets has made me be more aware of the art that I’m making and want to bring more powerful messages with my art. In saying that, there are SO MANY artists here locally that have such powerful stories to tell with their art and we’re so lucky that we have the chance to be able to spread that story in hopes that viewers will educate themselves on what those stories are. I’d really like to continue my large installation pieces to be based on animal conservation and the awareness of threatened and endangered species in local environments.
What’s giving you hope right now? How has this festival and the artists that you’re working with anchored you in these uncertain times?
Togetherness. I’ve only been in the art community here in Denver for 3 years, but this year, more so than ever, I’ve seen so many local artists come together to support one another. It’s so important to feel community and be able to experience it within a creative powerhouse here in Denver. It gives me hope that we can all get through anything together. CRUSH provides a platform for local artists to be able to connect with other locals as well as a handful of talented national and international artists. Everyone can learn something - and to be able to be exposed to a festival scenario where an educational opportunity is given is so important to grow as an artist and a human.