There’s no avoiding big art these days, with eye-catching, mural-bedecked walls blazing all around town. But there’s a residential side to the vibrant, large-art trend, too, and it’s transforming hallways, lobbies, laundry rooms, and lounges into unexpected gallery spaces.
Molly Casey, chief curator and cofounder of the Denver-based art consulting firm NINE dot ARTS, is excited to see oversized creative concepts in places where people live. “Big art draws your attention immediately,” she says. “It really creates a personality for the space—it’s powerful, it’s large, it’s in your face. When you see that artwork, you understand a little bit more about where you are and the people who live there.”
Large-scale art installations can separate a ho-hum apartment building from an Instagram-worthy residential adventure. “Multifamily has been huge in Denver, just booming over the last five to seven years,” Casey says, “and it’s a huge draw for potential residents to have these signature art pieces that catch your attention before you even enter the building.”
She points to the Lakehouse on Sloan Lake, Union Denver in Denver’s Union Station neighborhood, and the St. Paul Collection in Cherry Creek North as residential developments where big art is making a big difference, noting that more developers are recognizing the value of this kind of investment. “You’re giving art to the public, but you’re also creating a great brand for yourself, so it’s a win-win,” she says. “If you have that much thought and attention put into it, and it really gives a unique experience, that’s going to be light years ahead of the other apartment building down the block that has posters in it. It definitely helps with the sale, also, in terms of being able to up the price of the apartment or condo complex as a whole.”
There’s no reason why single-family homeowners can’t also get in on the big-art action. Casey offers some wise advice for those who dare: “The first thing to think about is location, because that’s key,” she says. “You want to make sure it’s in a space where you’re going to be comfortable being surrounded or overwhelmed by artwork every day; it’s going to really own the space.” She suggests placing a mural outdoors, on a patio wall or garage door, for example.
Choosing an artist can be tricky. “Just because you like somebody’s work on a small scale in a painting format doesn’t mean it’s necessarily going to translate the way you envision to a large-scale piece,” Casey warns. She recommends going to visit work that artist has done before, or asking the artist to do a mock-up or rendering showing the proposed artwork at scale. Fortunately, Denver has plenty of great local talent, and Casey is particularly enthusiastic about the work of Moe Gram, Floyd Tunson, and the female muralists whose work was on display at this year’s Babe Walls festival.
In the shadow of COVID-19, Casey thinks big art might just be the right art for the moment. “You don’t have to be next to somebody, breathing near each other, to enjoy the artwork,” she points out. “It’s been encouraging, because people can still enjoy and experience the artwork that’s outside and also be able to keep social distancing.”