Last year, businesses across town boarded up their storefronts — first because of COVID-19 shutdowns, then in the midst of protests for racial justice, and again in anticipation of social unrest ahead of the election. At times the city looked like a ghost town, with few people out and about.
But on those plywood boards, street artists saw an opportunity to transform shuttered storefronts into something beautiful. Some painted murals of hope; others expressed their political views.
While most of the wood planks have come down as businesses have opened up and protests have died down, some of the art remains, sitting in storage.
“When I walked into the garage where the pieces were being stored, I thought, these are such beautiful pieces," says Kate Kaufman, operations director at the Denver Central Market. "I was like, this isn’t right. It shouldn’t be stored in a garage. It should be out there where people can see it."
She was particularly taken with Lio Bumbakini’s mural “Still I Rise.” The black curvilinear shapes depict a person posing in water, one hand clasping a foot.
Kaufman reached out to Bumbakini and other local artists, who agreed that they wanted to auction their art and donate the proceeds to a local charity.
This Sunday, May 2, from 4 to 10 p.m., Gerard’s Pool Hall will host a silent art auction, selling work by Black and Indigenous Denver artists. The auction will benefit the Stiles African American Heritage Center, a museum located in Five Points that researches and showcases the lives of historical Black residents of the region.
Three to four large pieces, which were commissioned by businesses during the protests in 2020, will be on auction, accompanied by a collection of smaller works. Three artists have also been selected to paint live: Bumbakini, "Just" Giovannie, and Marissa Napoletano.
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