There’s a new mural spot up for grabs in Denver, but this one isn’t exactly adjacent a brewery. The Denver Art Museum (DAM) announced last week that it is seeking a local artist or group of artists to complete a mural project inside the museum’s renovated Martin Building, slated to reopen in fall 2021. According to an official announcement from the museum, the 12-by-28-foot creation should aim to capture Denver’s creative scene—ideally representing the seven-county Denver metro area—and any interested artists from the region can submit a proposal to be considered through February 12 at 11:59 p.m.
“Yes, it’s a mural, it’s a call for this specific piece of art,” says Erin Cousins, associate manager of creative and public engagement for DAM. “But it’s also a call for engaging with community voices, and really having this collaborative effort to create something that tells the story of Denver and our communities from the first second that people walk through our doors.”
The piece will have a home on the nearly 336-square-foot canvas in the first-floor corridor of the Welcome Center entrance by Civic Center Park and will be on view for up to three years. The selected artist or artists will be paid $10,000 for the completion of the mural, as well as provided a supplemental materials budget. The mural should “aim to enrich the lives of museum visitors by sparking creative thinking and expression,” according to a news release from the museum.
“It’s part of our Welcome Center, and it’s also on the way to the [new Morgridge] Creative Hub, which is another space where we’re really going to be convening, bringing together people, and connecting to our creative community,” says Jodie Gorochow, DAM’s associate director of creative and public engagement. “This is going to be one of a sort of suite—or a little symphony—of all these opportunities where we’re highlighting our local artists.”
The chosen artist(s) will be selected by a committee composed of half DAM staff and half local artists or members of the creative community, with a winner to be announced by March 23. The museum is hoping to see a piece that is not only a representative final product of the metro area’s vibrant culture, but also inclusive and collaborative in its process of creation, as well, with some form of public engagement expected.
Other qualities listed for the ideal candidate include experience working in a variety of environments, someone local with strong ties to communities in the seven-county metro area, and an interest in projects with participatory experiences for the public. People of color are strongly encouraged to apply, and preference will be given to artists who do not have a concurrent large-scale project in development with the DAM, according to the museum’s announcement. “[Communities of color] have been underrepresented in art museums over decades, both internally and externally. We believe these communities must be centered in the work we do,” the announcement reads.
With COVID-19 precautions in mind, the public input portion will require some creativity in terms of exactly how the chosen artist(s) will integrate voices from community members into the final design, but Gorochow says some tactics might look like discussions held in-person or over Zoom, public posting boards, workshops, collaborations with other organizations, and more.
“A big part of this initial proposal is really asking these prompting questions about ‘how do you want to engage the community? What is the kind of input that you would want to receive and incorporate, and what the stories you want to tell?’” Cousins adds. “And then that will be shaping the ‘how’ of it.”
And while Cousins and Gorochow don’t quite know yet what will come after the initial three years for the mural space, they both note that the museum is exploring options for possible preservation—or whether something else might be able to appear in the mural’s place after the three years.
“We definitely want to be open to growing into this space and open to seeing what are those community needs—or how can the spaces be responsive to our community?”