Move over boys, the inaugural Babe Walls event is here

By Amelia Petrini

//Alicia deOlivera Cardenas paints her mural for the ARISE Music Festival in Boulder, Colo. in 2017. Photo provided by deOlivera Cardenas.

Babe Walls, a mural exhibition, is an answer to the need for space exclusive to womxn and non-binary artists in Colorado. 

The event will run Aug. 13 through 16 in Westminster, where artists will collaborate on painting wall murals off West 72nd Ave. between Federal Blvd. and Hooker St. 

“In that time of working with the artists I found that a lot of the women artists felt like they weren’t being given a proper space to be able to do their art in a large scale,” said festival founder Alexandrea Pangburn. “It was really a gripe, and so I was just like well, we should just do it on our own. We should make our own space,”

Babe Walls was founded by Pangburn, a local mural artist. Pangburn, a native of Lexington, Ky., moved to Denver in 2017. Throughout the past few years she’s participated in Crush Walls, an annual RiNo district event, but Pangburn and other female and non-binary artists felt the established art festival lacked inclusivity. With that, the idea of Babe Walls was born.

Organizers first began planning the festival in October 2019. In less than six months, the details came together and the festival, which was originally planned for May but pushed to August due to COVID-19, was ready to make its debut to the world. 

In the traditionally male-dominated world of street art and graffiti, it can often be an uphill struggle for people that do not fall under the umbrella of a male identity to make their mark. Though womxn and non-binary people are given walls to paint at festivals like Crush Walls, welcoming their identity and making space for it are two different things. 

This view is shared by artist Alicia deOlivera Cardenas, an Indigenous Chicana artist who was born and raised in Denver. She sees Babe Walls as a huge step for the city.

“You have to make space,” deOlivera Cardenas said. “You can’t just expect these people to show up and do all this work and force themselves into these scenarios to be able to have equality. You have to make space,you have to say, ‘you’re invited.’ You have to say, ‘there’s a spot for you.’”

She would like to see the idea of making space taken further, extending the invitation specifically to Colorado’s Indigenous and Chicanx communities—communities she feels are often pushed aside in the interest of gentrification. She feels right now it’s more about making people feel good about the buildings that are going up in place of ones that are valued and sacred to the local community. 

DeOlivera Cardenas said she recognizes the effort put forth by both Crush Walls and Babe Walls in making that space for artists of color, but would like to see it go further. She would like to see youth outreach as well as more representation of Indigenous and Chicanx art—and an acknowledgment of the culture and history that makes Denver such a beautiful place.

“To know the city is to love it. But to love it requires a complicated reckoning of what’s not only happened in its past but what’s happening right now,” deOlivera Cardenas said.

She said the irony of gentrification is that people are attracted to Denver because of the depth and diversity of the culture, but end up changing much of it by building new housing developments and the like. The culture here is entirely diverse, beyond Indigenous and Chicanx history, deOlivera Cardenas said. 

“There’s awesome, awesome history here in Colorado and it’s not just with the Chicanas and the Natives. It’s the Italianos and the Polish and the agricultural aspect and there’s all this stuff.”

Art enthusiasts can check out deOlivera Cardenas and Pangburn’s walls—as well as many others’—this coming weekend. Due to COVID, it is a ticketed event. Tickets are free, however, and spots can be reserved through their website

//Artist Adrienne Norris talks about Babe Walls, her work and activist Ella Baker. Video by Polina Saran | polinasarana@gmail.com


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