DENVER -- The River North Art District, or RiNo, is a thriving neighborhood featuring revamped industrial buildings covered in colorful murals, food halls, concert venues, cocktail lounges and breweries. But long before RiNo was transformed into a trendy epicenter of art and craft cocktails, it was an industrial hub and home to one of the very first neighborhoods in Denver.
Justine Sandoval, a community activist, grew up in RiNo and her family has been living there since the 1920s.
“There is a long history with Denver, and there were of course First Nation people here long before we populated Denver, but it was actually one of the first neighborhoods that was developed post-gold rush and post western expansion,” says Sandoval.
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Today, art around RINO is celebrated, but prior to being established in 2005, the area was used as a canvas to create art of cultural and political significance.
“This was one of the epicenters of the Black Panther movement, to the Chicano Rights movement. And murals and art were fundamental to getting that message across during those movements and those murals are actually still here,” says Sandoval.
That’s one of the beautiful things about exploring RiNo. Spend the day walking around the neighborhood and you can find vibrant modern art as well as historical murals that were created decades ago.
“What I hope is that people will really be invested in learning the history of neighborhoods like Curtis Park and learning about all the things that shaped where they are,” says Sandoval, “and that’s valuing art that was put up last week and art that was put up in 1970 and before.”