I’ve always considered walking as the best way to fully embrace a city and seeking out local art as the most efficient way to connect with the local community and get to know its residents. Side Stories—an outdoor film installation—combines the two. Spread throughout Denver’s River North Arts District, the free event encourages pedestrians to watch large-format films by eight local artists while becoming acquainted with one of the Mile High City’s coolest neighborhoods by foot.
For the last two years, Side Stories‘ jury has selected eight artists to showcase their five-minute film loop on a pre-selected wall in RiNo.This year, the jury received more than 70 artist submissions, which is about the same as last year’s event. A few artists like Daniel Fickle and Natalie Einterz applied and made their way back on the lineup for this year’s installation.
“This is my first year going solo on it,” Einterz says, who is a motion designer for Denver-based Studio Hippo. For the last two years, Einterz has participated in Side Stories with other members from the Studio Hippo team. Her film, Colorado Peeks, is a reflection of her gratitude for nature and desire for Denverites to take a minute to slow down and appreciate what’s in front of them. Many of the scenes in her film are inspired by places in Colorado, like Rocky Mountain National Park. There are also eyeballs, lots of eyeballs throughout the film.
“I made some sort of surreal nature scenes and they all kind of have these eyeballs hidden throughout—playing with the idea that nature is watching us and we’re kind of watching it too,” she says.
This year’s lineup features a cast of newcomers, too. Tom Ludlow’s The Crystal Factory brings the Centennial State’s complex subterranean world to RiNo’s cement towers. Ludlow, who is the creative director for Longmont-based Tend Studios, has always been fascinated by rocks, crystals, and caves.
“My original intent in creating this project was to create a lifelike Colorado crystal cave, inspired by the Fairy Caves in Glenwood Springs,” Ludlow says. “However, when I received the challenge of mapping the RiNo cement towers, I felt drawn to integrate the gritty structural surface that I’d be using as a canvas.” Instead of using footage like many of the artists, Ludlow created his piece with all computer graphics.
Similar to Einterz, Ludlow wants to motivate people to take a break from the chaos of everyday life. “I’d love if viewers found a quick moment of calm or peace while experiencing my piece,” he says. RiNo’s industrial landscape also inspired him to create The Crystal Factory. “I think my piece is a little like the development of RiNo: from an underutilized warehouse district, to a diamond in the rough, and now a gem of the city,” Ludlow says.
While each wall is no more than half a mile apart from the next—and some can even be spotted from afar—the creators of Side Stories designed a map to help pedestrians find each film. Along with the films’ locations, the map links viewers to audio provided by the artists, explaining their flick and what it means to them.
Instead of reading her own artist statement, Einterz recruited a voice actor to recite hers. “I decided to have a David Attenborough voice actor read my artist statement to get you in that Planet Earth kind of feeling,” Einterz says, “So, hopefully people will listen to that because it’s funny.”
In addition to introducing artists and their films to Denverites, Side Stories also provides an opportunity for people to become more familiar with RiNo and its small businesses, restaurants, and bars.
“Bringing more foot traffic and customers, of course, is really critical,” says Fiona Arnold, Side Stories co-creator and president of Mainspring Developers. “Having a walking map around RiNo and pointing out different businesses….that’s a really important thing to bring more foot traffic to those unique small businesses.”
The event collaborated with Great Divide Brewing Co., Mockery Brewing Co., Queens Eleven, River North Brewery, and Ironton Distillery to provide drink and food deals and a refuge from the cold weather for those attending the event.
So whether you simply enjoy walking a city like me, looking at local art, or just taking a moment to be still—Side Stories is the perfect mini escape for any city dweller.
If You Go: Side Stories is a free and public event. The film loops will run continuously from 6–10 p.m. February 28 through March 6 along Brighton Boulevard.