Denver Pride art installation ‘A gem of delight’

Colfax business organization brings students, community together for art project

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The Colfax community came together last month to bring the stories of Stonewall and Denver Pride streetside as artwork on the district’s 14 utility boxes for traffic lights.

Frank Locantore, executive director of the Colfax Ave Business Improvement District, said the organization has put together the art project since 2015. Placing art on the boxes has two benefits: It promotes walkability in the neighborhood and it prevents tagging on the boxes as well, Lacantore said. 

“We hit upon something that was relatively simple to pull off,” he said. “It’s a little gem of delight as you’re walking instead of just this sterile metal utility box that probably has graffitti on it.”

The Colfax Ave Business Improvement District covers the area from 14th to 16th Avenues and from Grant and Josephine streets. 

The first year of the art installations, Locantore said the district ran the event with a contest. Each utility box had a link where people could go to vote for their favorite. The winner received a cash prize. 

Last year, Locantore decided to do things a little differently. His wife, Jill, is executive director of Walk Denver, an advocacy group that promotes pedestrian safety and walkability in the city. Walk Denver received an art grant. The couple brought in students from East High School as well as So Gnar Creative Division, a local mural art company. The students created stickers that featured the stories of victims of traffic accidents. So Gnar painted a large mural on a building that depicted people walking across a street. It reads “Streets are for the people.”

The stories were on the sidewalk side of the utility boxes. The street side has a visual art piece. 

“Each utility box told the story of one of the victims,” Locantore said. “It’s almost like you have a flipbook with the 14 utility boxes and they can each be their own vignette.”

When scouting the community for a new topic this year, Locantore learned from The Center on Colfax that it was the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots that launched the modern LGBTQ civil rights movement. 

The Center serves the LGBTQ community of Colorado. 

Locantore worked with East High School students again for the installation. And The Center on Colfax brought in Adrienne Norris an artist from Afro Triangle Designs. 

The students designed 14 vinyl stickers featuring stories of the LGBTQ community from Colorado, as well as the history of Stonewall. 

About 20 volunteers came together on May 11 to place the stickers. 

Locantore said he likes to draw ideas from the “riches of the community” in all of the Business Improvement District projects. Three tattoo artists from Colfax recently created original art pieces for the lightpost banners on Colfax. Capitol Hill and Colfax Avenue have always had strong ties to the LGBTQ community and PrideFest. 

“We’ve got a lot of proud Pride history,” he said. 

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