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Armed with a can of turquoise spray paint, Denverite Jonathan Lamb eyes his target: the side of a furniture factory in RiNo. He shakes the canister and, in the middle of the day, begins spraying. Lamb doesn’t need to wait for darkness to create his masterpiece—this graffiti is sanctioned by Denver Arts & Venues, which will help fund 30 new murals in the Mile High City this summer alone. Since 2009, Arts & Venues’ Urban Arts Fund (UAF) program has offered a total of $50,000 each year to can-wielding artists for projects in frequently vandalized parts of town. “We find that if you put a mural in an area—something that beautifies the neighborhood and involves the community—they’re going to keep their eyes on it and take care of it,” says the city’s public art program manager, Michael Chavez. The effective abatement model (only two UAF works out of 70 have been defaced in the past five years) caught the attention of the National Endowment for the Arts, which kicked in an additional $30,000 for 2014-15. That means more artists—from local youth correctional students to painting team Michael Ortiz and Lamb (whose 2013 UAF work, pictured, is located at 28th and Larimer streets)—can transform rough, overlooked spaces into public art. Says Chavez: “We are showing artists, and the community, there’s a more positive outlet than going rogue.”
—Photos courtesy of the Urban Arts Fund