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Artists begin painting murals near Central 70 Project; some neighbors show opposition

Concerns for kids at school, homes nearby
Posted at 2:20 PM, Aug 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-25 19:51:54-04

DENVER – This weekend, dozens of artists are painting kid-themed murals in front of Swansea Elementary School. The paintings are going on a 12-foot high construction wall near the Central 70 Project. 

"Definitely just wanted to add color to the neighborhood,” said creative artist Thomas Evans, also known by his artist name “Detour.”

Detour’s murals represent the communities they go up in, inspiring his creation on the wall near the school of one of his friends who grew up nearby.

"Whenever people look at my work, I just want them to have a good idea of the neighborhood and the people in it,” said Detour.

While some community members like the idea of the art going up by the school, not everyone in the neighborhood is sold on the development as something positive, and say the wall can’t hide what’s going on behind it.

"They said it’s going to protect the kids with the noise and the pollution and all of that, but I am not really sure about that,” said Gabriella Acevedo, a Swansea neighborhood resident.

Acevedo moved her kids to a new school this year due to fears of possible health concerns as construction of the I-70 expansion project gets underway.

"One of them has asthma and I don't want him to get worse than he already is,” said Acevedo.

"It’s basically covering everything up,” said Victoria Casillas. She grew up in the Swansea neighborhood and sends her kids to the elementary school.

"I get that change has to happen but not drastically. A lot of these people can't afford houses and rents are going up. Houses are selling for insane amounts that you haven't seen in this area,” said Casillas.

For mural artists like Randy Bowker and Nina Nadeau, they believe the art will be a positive step for the developing neighborhood.

"The kids don't need to see construction, they need to see art,” said Nadeau.

A Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) spokesperson said the wall is meant to be a "safety barrier,” to keep a good distance between students and the construction. The artists will continue to paint 4,800 square feet of wall space over the weekend. They're supposed to finish their artwork by Sunday night.

Denver Public Schools requested the wall as an extra safety layer between the school and the active construction site. It's 12 feet high and 700 feet long. CDOT officials recruited 35 artists to paint scenes representing "play" on the wall.

The artists will each be paid $800 for their murals. Officials said said that money will come from the construction developer and other private sources.

CDOT officials told Denver7 opposition of the mural is misplaced, further stating the murals are not about the highway or the changing infrastructure, instead saying this if for the kids.