August 8, 2012
Metropolitan State University of Denver
Artist Shepard Fairey donates mural to the CVA
|Noted street artist Shepard Fairey donated a mural to the Center for Visual Art and took part in a panel discussion there last week.|
As you approach MSU Denver’s Center for Visual Art on Santa Fe Drive, the wall mural just left of the entrance is hard to miss.
For one thing, it’s big—roughly 30 feet by 14 feet. The words Bright (with red background) and Future (with black background) float above the images of two black Rolls Royce automobiles. The license plate of the car on the left says Empire. The plate on the car on the right says Nowhere. And, oh yeah, that one is on fire.
The mural at the CVA in the Santa Fe Art District is courtesy of Shepard Fairey, an edgy, 42-year-old artist whose most prominent works include, “Andre The Giant Has A Posse” and the “Hope” poster that became an iconic image of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. A 2009 New York Times biography calls Fairey “a star in the world of street art for nearly two decades,” who is also a commercial success.
Based in Los Angeles but whose art is international, Fairey is in Denver as part of a group show this month with Denver artist Evan Hecox and Philadelphia artist Jim Houser at Black Book Gallery, also in the arts district. They agreed to spend time last Friday with students, faculty, employees of the CVA and people from the community to talk about their work.
Before that appearance, Fairey explained the message behind his mural, which he donated to the CVA.
|Shepard Fairey's mural reflects his views on the environment, wealth disparity and consumption.|
It’s inspired by Jamie Reid, an artist who did designs for the punk rock band, the Sex Pistols, and their shared interest in the environment and concern about wealth disparity, he says. The mural carries a message with several layers: “the dead end” of fossil fuel consumption, the mentality of over-consumption, and “the empire mentality of an entire country like the United States or the UK.” It is, he says in a bit of understatement, “a provocative piece.”
Fairey often tries to find a way to do public art during his travels. And the panel discussion at the CVA represented his effort to inspire artists still plugging away to “keep producing, keep going for it and keep making art by any means necessary.”
The CVA panel discussion hit on a wide range of topics. The artists talked about the sources of their inspiration, the balance between personal work and commercial work, the relationship between the artist and the materials he or she uses, making a living and even their feelings about Denver (they like it). Later they signed books, posters, stickers and other items brought by fans.
The event reflected MSU Denver’s philosophy of interacting with the community, says Art Department Chair and CVA Executive Director Greg Watts. It demonstrates that the campus is not an ivory tower but a welcoming neighborhood that invites people in.
“The wonderful thing about having events like this with the artists coming in is that it gives us an opportunity to cross pollinate the community with the academic audience,” he says. “What we’re trying to do not just in the Art Department but across campus is be more open so education is not a threat, it’s not something that is elitist…it is there for you and you can have it. Rather than us waiting on campus for people to come to us, we come to the community and give that opportunity to them.”