If you want to change the narrative, you need to speak at maximum volume. And it doesn’t hurt to take control of the language.
That’s the strategy behind Babe Walls 2020, the outdoor mural fest set to make its mark on Westminster next weekend. Twenty-eight prominent and emerging street artists will spend four days collaborating on 12 attention-grabbing installations. The public is invited to watch the process unfold.
It’s a landmark event, the first of its kind in Colorado, proudly powered by a group of “babes” who are confident in their painting skills and ready to take back a word that can have negative connotations when used to describe women. All of the artists are female or non-binary.
Are they babes? Yes; and so what?
If you go
Babe Walls takes place from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 13-16 in the vicinity of W. 72nd Ave. and Hooker Street in Westminster. It’s free. Info and tickets at babewalls.com.
“To me, that’s always been an interesting, uplifting, ‘you’re-a-bad-ass-chick’ kind of term,” said Alexandrea Pangburn, one of the organizers. “We decided we’re going to change the definition.”
Pangburn and the other women in the loose collective of artists working under the Babe Walls banner even wrote down their own meaning of the word, which they use as a guiding force in their mission: “a person(s) or group of people on an enlightened path, unidentified by gender, that empower and inspire each other by the community they are a part of, surrounding a particular craft or common interest.”
In this case, the craft is covering the sides of buildings with bold images, created, for the most part, with spray paint. Street art has emerged as the dominant visual art form of the 21st century, and these artists are making sure everyone knows they’re crucial to its popularity.
For sure, they’ve earned their place. It’s not necessarily the case now, but street art traditionally has been dominated by men — or at least that’s how people perceive it. Plenty of women are out there doing the work, risking limb and lung with their cans of Krylon and hydraulic lifts, same as their male colleagues.
Still, it’s the guys who get all of the glory. The few street artists most people know by name are male stars, like the British phenomenon Banksy or the American muralist and graphic designer Shepard Fairey.
The Babe Walls group is a small and local step toward shaking that up. There are six artists, or collectives, at its core: Pangburn, Kaitlin Ziesmer, Ashley Joon, Grow Love, Gina Ilczyszyn and Romelle.
For Babe Walls 2020, they’ve invited in other local artists. Some are well-known in Denver, like Anna Charney, Adrienne Norris and Alicia Cardenas.
The artists will be working in pairs or trios. Pangburn, for example, is teaming with muralist Sandra Fettingis, whose patterned, geometric murals are visible across the region. Emerging artist Chelsea Lewinski, who lately has been building a reputation for her pop-up wall portraits, will collaborate with Taylor Herzog and Ashley Joon.
Babe Walls is open-minded and fairly loose when it comes to its membership: “Anybody who wants to be a part of this collective can be a part of this collective,” said Pangburn.
It’s really about building community, and that’s been a defining part of the Babe Walls 2020 fest. To get things going, the group put together a Kickstarter campaign in the spring and quickly raised a whopping $58,000, about half of what the fest will cost to pull off, Pangburn said.
There are other supporters, local folks like developers Christina and Mike Eisenstein and Peter LiFari who offered up walls on their properties in Westminster, and corporate sponsors, like Red Bull. The city is also a partner.
That underscores just how important street art has become in the wider art scene, and in artists’ careers. A fair number of painters are now making a full-time living putting up murals in communities large and small.
Babe Walls wants to make sure those opportunities extend to female artists, especially newcomers. To get commissions, artists need to show that they’ve accomplished major projects — exactly the kind of work the mural fest will put on their resumes.
“If you’re new or don’t have that portfolio to put up big walls, it’s difficult to squeeze your way into that world,” said Lewinski.
Street art can look haphazard (and lot if it is), including the tags and graffiti writing that started it all and remain an inspiration. But the large murals that are trending now can be costly in terms of paint and the machinery required to get artists into the air. Babe Walls 2020 is supplying both of those for participants.
The painters are bringing their own creative ideas, in the form of the collaborations, which are being built around the styles of the artists in the mix.
Lewinski’s piece, for instance, is an homage to painter Georgia O’Keeffe and will rely on her signature abilities to re-create known faces. But it will incorporate the colorful abstract moves that Herzog is known for and the “drippy flowers” that Joon creates.
“We really tried to figure out what we wanted to paint,” said Lewinski. “We were thinking it would be cool to highlight another female artist who paved the way for us.”
Babe Walls is working through the obstacles of putting on a major public event during the current pandemic. Mural fests are usually free-wheeling affairs with visitors coming and going over the course of several days. This one had to be more restricted.
Everything is free, but the fest is limiting the number of people who can attend to 175 every 90 minutes. Organizers are encouraging folks to sign up in advance and there’s a link on the website for tickets. Walk-ups may be possible if crowd size permits.
And expect crowds. It’s a safe, family-friendly event that takes place outside, just when people are looking for that kind of diversion. Babe Walls 2020 has the added attraction of putting people up close with artists who are usually open to chatting about their work.
“This whole fest is really to celebrate femininity and bring light to a community of artists who may not feel like they are having a voice,” said Pangburn.
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter, In The Know, to get entertainment news sent straight to your inbox.
Source: Read Full Article