DPS students and staff delight in painting a downtown mural
Self-expression is not only for the widely-creative extrovert or the highly-talented artist. Pretty much anyone from any walk can find a means of self-expression in some capacity. In Denver on Friday, May 4th, that form came in the shape of a 200-foot-wide, 40-foot-tall canvas in downtown Denver.
On the outer wall of the parking garage across from Denver Public Schools headquarters on Lincoln Street, local artists have been painting a mural in collaboration with DPS students, teachers and staff. On Friday for about four hours, students, teachers community members and artists took to expressing themselves on the mural in commemoration of Better World Day.
According to the Director of Media Relations for Denver Public Schools, Will Jones, the effort was led by artist Pat Milbery and the artists’ group known as So-Gnar Creative Division. Joining in on the effort were students, staff and teachers from the Downtown Denver Expeditionary School and Denver Public Schools.
“Denver Public Schools and the So-Gnar Creative Division came together on this collaboration to give DPS students an opportunity to create something bigger than themselves and something that would leave a lasting impression on the downtown landscape,” Jones said.
So-Gnar Creative Division, too, felt a great deal of pride in the project, particularly working with the students.
“Allowing the kids this opportunity for their imaginations to think bigger and having public art be accessible for everyone to enjoy is the most important element of this project,” Milbery said. “It’s why I love what I do.”
The mural is on 1855 Lincoln St. by the Emily Griffith Campus of the Downtown Denver Expeditionary School making it all that more meaningful for the students taking part in its creation. According to Jones, it was nearly two months worth of work coming together.
“Because the wall is such a massive canvas, artists spent close to two months collaborating with kids and educators to come up with ideas for what the students wanted to add to the community,” Jones said. “The consensus from the students was that this area of downtown could use more nature.”
The mural depicts a colorful and aptly triangular version of the rockies guarded by a mama bear and her cub on one end, while the opposite end shows a lone hand holding a blooming flower, from which the sun appears to be rising.
“The mamma bear and cub symbolize the nurturing values that our educators work to give to our students,” Jones said. “Students loved the idea of adding mountains, trees, vegetation and animals to this part of downtown through their art.
According to Jones nearly 400 DPS students, hundreds of DPS educators and seven artists from the So-Gnar Collective Division worked on this piece.
“Additionally, the Downtown Denver Partnership mobilized 60 volunteers to help paint the mural,” he added.
Beyond nature and nurture, the mural and the collaboration that it required to be created followed along the shared core values of DPS: students first, integrity, equity, collaboration, accountability and fun.
“Throughout the entire mural process all of the stakeholders ensured that these core values were at the heart of the project,” Joses said. “We made sure that this work included students’ voices and allowed them to participate in the actual painting of the mural.”
As for why the May 4th event was so successful, Jones said it was all in the planning.
“The event was so successful in large part because none of us rushed the process,” he said. “The spirit of collaboration allowed us all to develop this great piece of art together. All of the participants had a voice. The project was fun. Additionally, each of the people involved helped manage the work and took pride in creating this new, bright and vibrant gift for downtown Denver from start to finish.”