Before I started The Street Art Network, I had no doubts in my mind that Denver was ready for something like it. For the better part of three years, I’ve been writing about Denver’s art scene with increasing fervor, experiencing firsthand the bubbling growth, expansion, and evolution throughout the city. One of the most rapidly developing sectors of the arts has been and continues to be street art. What used to be a topic I could only write one article a month about is now dominating my feed and I welcome it with an insatiable hunger for more.
But even though the road for my writing and coverage of street art has been smooth, my entry into the community with Rebel Tours has been interrupted with potholes. Aside from the typical obstacles that any entrepreneur comes up against when starting a new business, my potholes have manifested in the form of accusations that my business is taking advantage of the very thing I am trying to support and enrich. I’ll ignore the mixed bag of emotions that kind of accusation instills in me and instead talk about my aims for The Street Art Network - Rebel Tours in the hopes that the vehicle of expression which gained my good standing with the artist community will help bring clarity to this murky situation.
Artist Appreciation and Credit
Artists are generally sensitive people. I can say this because I, too, am an artist. Not only do I consider writing an art, I also dabble in various other visual arts like textiles, wheatpasting, intricate line drawings, and the occasional spray painted stencil. Maybe it's because I know the struggle of trying to survive on a creative pursuit, or maybe it's because I have always placed a high value on artistic enterprises, but I am deeply invested in supporting artists. Especially in Denver. I want The Street Art Network and Rebel Tours to be a platform for artists to reach higher, further, and with more gusto.
Even though the names and stories of many of Denver's street artists saturate my thoughts, most of the people who come on a Rebel Tour have never heard of any of them. Most haven't even heard about CRUSH. After my tour is over, I always offer my services as an artist creditor — that is, if anyone wants to share photos of art or look into an artist in more detail, I give them the relevant contact info or social media handles. The thrill of introducing a new fan to a particular artist or opening their eyes to the artistic bounty of an entire neighborhood is exhilarating for me.
Better Understanding of the Skill
One of the most frequent questions I answer about street art and graffiti is "how long did it take to create?" Next is "how much does something like this cost?" or "how much did the artist get paid?" There are few people who know enough about the art to ask more technical questions, which illustrates the lack of knowledge concerning the actual skill of muralists, street artists, and graffiti writers.
Once I answer the basic questions — 1) anywhere from a few hours to a month or more, 2) anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars for materials and 3) anywhere from free (they call it "exposure") to $50 per square foot or more — I spend the rest of the time diving into specifics. Let's talk about can control, variations in caps, differences between freehand and projection, when something is spray painted versus paint brushed, and many other topics in between.
The bottom line I distill for anyone asking about street art is this — each piece is an original artwork, painstakingly made with individual strokes, by hand. It is as admirable as any traditional modality of art, not just a past time for punks with spray paint.
Future Mural Commissions
Witnessing the budding growth of public art in Denver — and that goes for all public art, not just murals and wall art — has inspired me on many levels. I remember the first time I was impacted by a piece of public art, it made me feel emboldened, enlivened, and yearning to create something that might emulate the same response in someone else. I've said before that if The Street Art Network and/or Rebel Tours inspires even one person to become a street artist, I will feel accomplished.
In that vein, I've set up a fund for future commissions for murals and other street art and graffiti. Portions of the sales from Rebel Tours go toward this fund. And more recently, I've been working on brokering commissions for artists with local businesses where a percentage is also saved in the fund. Though I cannot possibly compensate each and every artist who I admire and help others to admire in Denver, I can contribute in a real way to the ongoing success and longevity of the community.
Seeing the City in a New Way
When is the last time you walked down an unfamiliar alley or drove through a neighborhood you don't live in? For me, that's a regular occurrence and a huge part of my job. Every time I explore Denver, I learn and see something I've never noticed before.
Even if I hadn't started The Street Art Network, I would be combing the streets of the city for art because I’m organically drawn to the ever-evolving urban flora of this city. As I walk, drive, or skate through Denver I’m honored to witness, capture, and experience the birth, decay, death, and eventual rejuvenation or reinvention of each art piece.
For me, the main incentive behind leading guided tours of street art is to share this passion for exploration and curiosity with others. My life has been irrevocably altered in the pursuit of art — in appreciating it, in creating it, in supporting it — and I am always humbled to be the shepherd of someone else's journey into that realm. Sometimes, people need guidance and it is the duty of those who know the way best to lead them.
Photo by Amanda Piela.