Dozens of spray cans line the alley, sitting peacefully next to the works of art they helped create. Artists stand in front of the walls or up on ladders, blending, shading and highlighting their pieces. This is the scene at CRUSH, Colorado’s largest independent graffiti and street art project and event.
This was my first year attending the festival, but I had unknowingly been part of it every time I visited the RiNo neighborhood in downtown Denver. Much of the incredible street art I had admired over the years was created during this annual event.
CRUSH, or Creative Rituals Under Social Harmony, started back in 2010 by Denver graffiti artist, Robin Munro. He wanted to build an event that showcases the artistic talents in Denver and all over the world. Every year, the festival has grown, expanding the project footprint and bringing in more artists. In 2017, approximately 100 artists painted murals over the week-long event. Walls were painted from 27th street up to 40th and Williams St. (I realize that might not mean anything to people who don’t live in Denver, so there’s a map below to reference.)
My friends and I started our “urban exploration” in the parking lot next to Denver Central Market (2669 Larimer St, Denver, CO 80205). This is pretty much the epicenter of the action, where dozens of artists were actively working on their pieces as we walked past. The alley behind the parking lot forks off north and south, and it’s where you’ll find a majority of the new masterpieces. There are murals scattered along Larimer, Walnut and Blake Streets, making for a fun scavenger hunt if you’re up for locating all of them.
While I could describe the graffiti mastery I witnessed, I think you’ll be happier if I show you. FYI, you’re welcome to photograph the pieces, but CRUSH requests you credit the artist if you share on social media. Most artists sign their pieces with their Instagram handle or their name, but if you don’t see it or can’t remember it, there is a map on the website and a list of participating artists.
CRUSH is a celebration of art and urban beautification, and it has brought art from the gallery walls out onto the streets for everyone to enjoy. It’s truly inspiring to see the passion and creativity of the artists, and to watch the works come to life in front of your eyes. The festival takes place every September and runs for a week. Dates for 2018 aren’t up yet, but if you’re interested in attending, keep your eye on the website for updates.
The true beauty of CRUSH is that the products of the event live on for a year until the walls are wiped clean and new pieces are introduced. Even if you missed the festival, you can still enjoy these stunning works of art. If you’re visiting Denver in the next year, or you’re a local who hasn’t been to RiNo in a while, plan a day to explore the neighborhood and admire this outdoor gallery.
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