Since 2001, the Denver Art Museum has maintained a mural on the east-facing wall of 1515 Restaurant in LoDo. This year, to celebrate our new partnership with Bellco Credit Union–which is now the generous presenter of our Free for Kids program–we asked local artists Jaime Molina and Pedro Barrios to refresh the wall with a new, original artwork.
After a visit to the museum, Jaime and Pedro developed a concept inspired by the importance of access to art for youth, and how families experience art together. The result was a wonderfully vibrant mural that is a beautiful new addition to the neighborhood and Denver’s budding street art scene (check out the Westword article that agrees).
We asked Jaime and Pedro–who are two of the nicest fellas in Denver–a few questions about their work as artists and the importance of murals and street art in Denver.
How did you get your start as muralists?
Pedro Barrios: I began my art career by discovering the fascinating world of street art while backpacking through Europe at a young age. I was immediately hooked. I returned from my trip and began working on my skill set and personal style. My start [as a muralist] came about when a client stumbled upon my work and inquired with the gallery I was working with at the time about me potentially painting a mural for them. When I was approached to paint my first mural, I was absolutely thrilled. As overjoyed as I was, I was also equally intimidated. I had never painted anything at that scale, and really didn't know where to begin. The first person that came to mind to help me was Jaime, and it really just kept snowballing after that.
Jaime Molina: When I lived abroad I had the opportunity to paint on some walls and I really fell in love with it. When I came back to the states, I wanted to keep moving in that direction, so it was great to come back and link up with Pedro on some projects. As far as becoming a muralist goes I guess you just have to start somewhere and go paint a mural. I think you also need to draw a lot. The whole, ‘crawl before you walk’ saying goes a long way in art, I think. It's good to be ambitious, but you don't want to fail before you even get started. The best advice I had when I painted my first real mural came from my wife. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself and overthinking it, and she told me to use an image that I had already done before. It's a good starting point because you already know the image so it's more about tackling the technical aspects at that point.
How do you collaborate on murals? Who does what?
Pedro: Every mural is different. Deciding who is going to execute on a concept is solely based on showcasing our different strengths. In terms of collaboration, we draw and create concepts together, decide on a palette together, and we always paint the final product as a team.
Jaime: Our approach is really intuitive, so each piece evolves differently. We don't have a set formula for how we do a mural. Even though we have an idea of how things will look once it is complete, it's still a treat for us, as much as for the person we are doing it for, to see the piece finished. We just always put the work first and it makes collaboration easier when there's no ego involved.
In your opinion, what is the value of murals/street art? Why are they important?
Pedro: Street art breaks down the traditional barriers of how people view and interact with art. It makes art accessible for the masses, and becomes part of their environment in a way that is unique. Stumbling upon something you've never seen makes an adventure of a simple walk down the block. There aren't any constraints with how you react to street art. You're free to enjoy and interact with the work with no conventional rules.
Jaime: I love the community aspect and the pride that the neighborhood has for the piece when it's done. This goes for ALL art in the public forum whether it's graffiti, sculpture, street art, or any other form of expression that exists for everyone to see. It is important to have these facets of culture in Denver because it puts the flavor in our city. People don't visit Denver, or if you live here you don't walk around, and have memories or make comments about all of the great advertisements we have here. These displays of expression make a big impact on what makes Denver what it is. It's real life.
Make sure to visit 1515 Restaurant at 15th and Market Streets to see the mural in person. (Download a coloring sheet of the mural and color your own version.)
The Free for Kids program at the Denver Art Museum is made possible by Scott Reiman and is presented by Bellco Credit Union.