Aug 12, 2022 - News

A neighborhood mural is restored in Denver

David Ocelotl Garcia stands in front of his restored mural, "Huitzilopochtli," on Aug. 11 in Denver. Photo: Esteban L. Hernandez/Axios

David Ocelotl Garcia's first mural is hidden no more.

Driving the news: The local artist recently completed the first restoration phase for a mural called "Huitzilopochtli" in Denver's Sun Valley neighborhood.

  • The colorful art, which Garcia dedicated to his late mother, covered a wall along a former community center at 2895 West 8th Ave., and was completed in 2007.

Yes, but: In April 2020, it was painted over by new building tenants, who operate a marijuana dispensary.

  • Garcia completed the three-week process of removing the white paint blanketing his mural last month. It now must be repainted in some areas to be completely restored.

Why it matters: Chicano murals including Garcia's, along with four others, were named on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's 2022 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Places.

  • The murals were cited for representing stories of Latino, Chicano and Mexican-American culture and history in Denver and statewide, where Latinos represent about 22% of the state's population, including some families who can trace their roots back generations before Colorado was even a state.
The restored mural, "Huitzilopochtli," on Aug. 11 in Denver. Photo: Esteban L. Hernandez/Axios

What they're saying: "I'm still, at this stage, realizing how important this mural is, even with the new recognition," Garcia said, referring to the National Trust's list, and adding people called him in tears over the mural's whitewashing.

  • Garcia, who grew up in Denver, has artwork on display at the Museo de las Americas — one of the premier Latin American art museums in the region — and numerous public art works, including paintings inside cultural institutions like La Raza Park, and outside the city's newest library.
  • He often uses Mesoamerican motifs and patterns, blending bright and bold colors depicting Mestizos, people of mixed Indigenous and European ancestry.

The big picture: Preservation efforts are underway in Denver to restore murals named on the endangered places list, led by the Chicano/a/x Murals of Colorado Project, whose goal is to preserve these work's legacy.

  • "To be able to resurrect that mural was huge," project director Lucha Martinez de Luna said about Garcia's mural. "Now we know we can do it."
  • Martinez de Luna said clear coats are applied to brighten colors in the murals and offer UV protection, slowing the fading process.
  • At least seven paintings were coated so far this year, including a well-known piece at La Alma Lincoln Park by Martinez de Luna's father, Emanuel, and another painted by the late Alicia Cardenas on Larimer Street.

Of note: Martinez de Luna said the murals coated this year were completed with the approval of building owners.

What's next: The murals will be outfitted with graffiti guard coating and add plaques, while some may need additional restoration work.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the references to David Ocelotl Garcia.

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