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"Golden Afternoon" by Ella Vance. Photo by Victoria Carodine

This Art Installation Is a Walking Tour of RiNo

For eight nights, select walls in Denver's River North Arts District will act as large-format art installations.

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Apart from the snow blanketing Denver, winter in the city can be pretty dreary. Side Stories, in collaboration with RiNo Arts District, wants to add some color and creativity to your life through its second annual outdoor film installation. In the evening from March 1 through March 8, digital artworks—ranging from live action, animation, documentary, and experimental—will be projected onto eight different urban exteriors throughout RiNo.

The event, which had its inaugural run in February 2018, is designed to show some love to Colorado-based artists and give people another reason to get out and explore another part of Denver. “It’s essentially a walking tour of RiNo,” says Fiona Arnold, and executive team member for Side Stories.

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This year, Side Stories held a call for artists to submit concepts and bid on a wall. A jury made up of Mariel Rodriguez-McGill, the deputy film commissioner at the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade; Adam Lerner, the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art; Mary Lester of the Martin Family Foundation; Annie Geimer of Meow Wolf, and Britta Erickson, festival director of the Denver Film Society, selected eight artists out of the 70-plus that applied. Each artist was given a $5,000 stipend to produce a five-minute film loop with their chosen wall in mind.

While there isn’t a central theme for Side Stories, each of the artists focuses on an idea or message they are trying to convey. For artist Daniel Fickle, that message is to always follow your heart and your intuition. Fickle spent days producing and editing “Red Light,” a short film about two women reconnecting with each other after being kept apart by their families. “It’s a love story,” Fickle says.

While some of the walls are blank and rectangular, others exhibit a more complicated exterior. For instance, Ella Vance’s film, “Golden Afternoon”, projects onto the Mountain Cement Towers behind the Source Hotel and Market Hall. “All of these pieces are created—not just with different mediums—but are also created to take advantage of their specific wall,” Arnold says. From silos to walls with doors and windows, each of the artists’ films adapted to the chosen exterior. Great Divide’s metal clad exterior was Fickle’s first choice for a backdrop. “I liked the composition,” Fickle says. “I thought the split screen would be really nice to tell the story of two characters. I also love Great Divide.”

“Goodnight Denver” by Brian Fouhy. Photo by Victoria Carodine

In addition to giving exposure to local artists, the makers of Side Stories wanted to provide an art event for a quieter time of the year to help support small businesses. Arnold also hopes the event will present an opportunity for people to explore a part of town to which they might be unfamiliar. “RiNo is still relatively new for many Denverites,” Arnold says. “A lot of people would like to come to RiNo and they want to know what’s going on, but it’s hard to know where to start.”

On its website, Side Stories features an interactive map of where the walls are located, who the artist is, and a short summary of each film. Some of the films are accompanied by audio which can be accessed on the map. All eight walls are within walking distance of one another and surrounded by restaurants, wineries, breweries, and bars. “You can see one wall, go inside, have a drink and warm up before heading to the next wall,” Arnold says.

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Local bars and restaurants like Great Divide Barrel Bar, Safta, and Reunion Bread Company partnered with Side Stories to offer food and drink deals during the eight days of the installation. All the deals can be found here.

Arnold hopes the accessibility and creativity of the films will bring more people into Denver’s hippest neighborhood. “They’ll learn the businesses and feel more comfortable coming back to explore it in the future.”

If You Go: Side Stories is a free and public event. The film loops will run continuously from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. March 1 through March 8 along Brighton Boulevard.

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