This last week on November 4th the Santa Fe Art District kicks off their annual Denver Arts Week celebrating the city’s dense art culture, but just a little north of this area the people of Colorado were also treated with another annual art event called Colorado Crush. Colorado Crush is the biggest graffiti gathering of artists in the Rino Art District founded in 2009 by Dread where local and international artists are brought in to Colorado for a few days to expand the reach of the graffiti art movement with a wide variety of different art styles from across the globe.
Last year they had 70 artists attend, but thanks to their collaboration with the Rino Arts District this year they have expanded that number to 100 artists, so you get to see the work of local upcoming artists like Balance to well established artists like Joshua Mays. But Dread isn’t stopping there thanks to a collaboration with Like Minded Productions and Up Art Studio they are expanding their reach to more artists in more cities, starting with Houston, TX and Miami, FL. I got the chance to catch up with Dread to get a little more insight into how this year’s event went and what we can expect next from Dread and the community of artists his movement has inspired.
It looks like Colorado Crush just ended back in September, how many artists did you guys have this year?
We had about 70 installations and over 100 artist this year.
How can artists become involved in Colorado Crush?
We curate based on experience and personality. We usually hand select artist. We will be announcing a call for entry for people to apply for late spring.
In 2014 Colorado Crush won the 2014 Mayors Design Award from Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock, which is pretty unique for a city where most other cities label their street artists as criminals. Can you tell us about a little more about the reaction and support you have gotten from the community?
The community loves this movement. From some of the hardest bombers, to local businesses and residence of all ages. It’s truly a community movement.
How many blocks have you taken over this year and do you hope to expand the scope every year or do the artists paint over the previous years work? Is there any ambition to take Crush further than just the Rino Art District?
We have about seven blocks with several other clusters of murals peppered in throughout the neighborhood. We have a site map on the website. We work in several different areas. Collaborations with Up Art Studio out in Houston and down in Miami. We have several other projects in the Denver area.
What tips or advice can you give artist communities in other cities that could help them organize similar events?
Celebrate all art movements, graffiti is often seen as taboo and looked down upon. But these artist are the ones paving the way and risk it all. Collaborate, never discredit peoples work or efforts. Be open minded, you never know what you can learn from someone. Start with the locals first. Really building a strong local core is important. Bridge any gaps.
How did you get started in graffiti and street art?
I was always an artist, I knew that from a young age. I was really into comics, skateboarding and spent most of my time in the streets. People like Jher and Beast inspired me. It was so much fun, how could you not get pulled in?!?!
How has collaborating with other artists for Colorado Crush informed your own work?
I love working with other artist, sharing ideas, techniques and inspirations are the best way to evolve. Nothing like painting with someone that moves you and makes you think outside the box.
The colours in your work are very vivid and you use a lot of contrast to great effect. How did you develop your sense of colour? Is studying other artists important to you?
Studying others is a great way to see how colours used. Tattooing helped me a lot with this. Creating high contrast will help colours pop. But really you can come up with colour concepts anywhere you look.
What advice would you give for artists looking to grow? What do you think is the most effective way of upping your design skills?
Read, study and apply what you can learn from that to your own work. You’ll naturally create a style of your own even if you’re a versatile artist.
Colorado Crush has quite a few sponsors that provided the financial backing for the artists to attend the event, how did you go about getting sponsors for Colorado Crush? Is there any one of them in particular you would like to make mention of here?
Its really a huge effort from a number of people. Jon Lamb form Like Minded Production helps a great deal. As well as the Rino Art District. Would also like to thank The Urban Art Department, for all the help over the years.
In a previous interview you mentioned that Colorado crush will eventually have a educational element to it as well, where kids can come to learn street art. I was hoping you could expand on that and let us know how this fits in with the bigger what you are doing with Colorado crush.
I already work with local schools and do mural classes. But I want my own free youth ran youth based learning facility. I want a place where we can teach all facets of art. That kids can earn credits and then apply for short term teaching positions. This has been a dream of mine for so long. Crush is just a platform for this next step.
Wow that is really cool, do you ever see an online component to what you teach now in terms of fundamentals? Would you be helping kids find mural work as well and eventually incorporate them into your annual events?
I believe that every city is a unique, really the fundamentals will be different for each one. But generally students can complete certain amounts of credit hrs in order to apply to be a teacher. The positions will be anywhere from 1-4 years. This will not only insure the investment for the student, but will provide real life work experience. This will also be a great way to keep the community united and evolving. Providing a new way to engage one another. We need more places like this, creating critical thinkers, not social drinkers. We need to stop giving power to those things that take power over us. We need a new system that is about being free and united, not locked up and divided.
You are collaborating with artists in Miami and Houston to do similar events to Colorado crush in these cities. Where do you see this taking you 5 years down the road? Do you hope to expand even further than that?
We want to continue to build with people and entities that are on similar paths. International cultural exchange is another big part of what he hope to achieve. This is the next Renascence, the movement is happening. We are just happy to be a part of it and hope to have a progressive influence on our community and others.
With the emergence of our global culture our world has gotten much smaller and the amount of talent that we become aware of everyday is really inspiring and gives artists a chance to learn from other artists across the globe. Thanks to the internet it has made it a very viable option to make a living off your art or something art related as opposed to just a generation before where the options were so limited by galleries and other middlemen that wanted to stick their hands in the creative process.
The streets are flooded with artist now. Many of whom know little about graffiti, let alone street politics, it can be dangerous combo. Its up to us to keep educating and bringing up these young people. People want to censor what the see in public art as well. Its happening now, that’s why we try to provide a platform that has full artistic freedom. But we still have to follow laws about nudity and so on.
Finally, what are you up to for the remainder of the year and where can people expect to see your next work?
We are already working towards next year, raising funds can be time consuming. I’ll be in Miami painting for Big Walls Big Dreams put together by Up Art Studio.
Bless up to my Civilized crew! Creative Rituals Under Social Harmony! C.R.U.S.H.
Interview by Wesley Edwards.