Adding care and color to Adams County walls

Babe Walls muralists decorate Riverdale Regional Park as part of Pride events

Luke Zarzecki
lzarzecki@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 6/18/22

Painting murals isn’t as easy as just grabbing a brush, dipping it in paint and creating art on a wall. Rules exist that police the expression. 

“Most of the counties (in …

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Adding care and color to Adams County walls

Babe Walls muralists decorate Riverdale Regional Park as part of Pride events

Posted

Painting murals isn’t as easy as just grabbing a brush, dipping it in paint and creating art on a wall. Rules exist that police the expression. 

“Most of the counties (in Colorado) have some sort of very specific rules about what can be done on walls, and a lot of it comes from graffiti being a vandalism issue with towns,” said Koko Bayer, logistics coordinator for Babe Walls. “The way they were written, they basically (said murals) can’t be painted.” 

Babe Walls is a celebration of women and non-binary folks in the mural scene. The group was organized in 2019 and has since hosted festivals in Westminster and Arvada where artists decorated public spaces to create murals. 

This year, 12 artists were hard at work at Riverdale Regional Park painting murals for Adams County’s first-ever Pride weekend. Each artist painted their own portion of concrete that will come together to form a whole work.

The pieces will be displayed in the park for six months and then be placed at six different trailheads throughout the county, according to Babe Walls Executive Director Alexandrea Pangburn. 

Babe Walls 

Babe Walls was created because males were dominating the mural and art scene. Grow Love, community engagement director for Babe Walls, said she and Pangburn were having conversations about the noninclusive artist spaces they both were experiencing due to their gender. 

Out of those discussions Babe Walls was born, and other artists, with similar experiences to share, were eager to join.

“It started out as this little group where we were just trying to make space for ourselves and other people like us, and it's become this really empowering organization,” Bayer.

The name Babe Walls means many different things, depending on who is asked. To Bayer, Babe means Babes in the Woods since many participants are just starting out. To Pangburn, she sees it as redefining the word "babe."

In the dictionary, she said babe is defined as “a sexually attractive young woman.” To her, it means “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.”

Not only does the group include experienced muralists, but it also fosters emerging artists. Those who apply to the group sometimes have zero experience creating murals — and that’s encouraged. 

One of those artists is Jahna Rae, who applied last year without having painted a mural before. She found inspiration from seeing someone in her community painting a mural.

“I gotta find a way to do this,” she said. 

With some experience under her belt, she found her process. She first looks at the wall, plays with the shape, picks a color palette and sketches a few drawings until she finds a composition. Then she does the final rendering and begins to paint. 

“Just being around all the experienced artists and meeting even more people in the (Babe Walls) community has changed everything,” she said. “This is a big beautiful community that isn't getting enough representation, and for me, it's opened up a whole other community that I didn't have before full of love and joy and all things good.”

Good for children

Adri Norris, treasurer for Babe Walls, painted a mural of Ernestine Eckstein, one of the first Black woman gay rights activists. Norris’ goal in her art is to uplift marginalized women who put in the hard work of fighting for equality. 

She said last year’s event in Arvada provided an atmosphere that was very parent-and-child friendly. 

“We had a gang of little kids running all over the place,” she said. “Everyone was comfortable with having them there.” 

Introducing children to murals and a space that fosters creativity, she said, helps mend the separation between the adult world and the child world. 

“They're going to grow into adults, why would we not show them what we do?” she said.

Community assets 

Pangburn described how a mural can uplift a community. She points to the group's first festival in Westminster. 

“It was a community that had a lot of low-income housing, it was kind of grimy and there was a lot of late-night violence," she said. "We did 12 walls and it’s just booming now."

Bayer said a mural can bring value to a community because it shows that those who created the murals care enough to bring something beautiful to a neighborhood. 

She explained how murals can get people activated in outdoor spaces and give them a reason to stop a car and talk to someone. 

“It helps create community, and it’s kind of amazing that you can just do that with some paint,” she said. 

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