Behind The Curtain of Meeg Conroy's "Denver Tales"
Denver, CO has certainly changed a lot over the last decade. One might even say that Denver’s starting to fill up. And they do say that. They say it a lot. “It’s becoming full of transplants, traffic, people chasing legal weed, etc” you’ve probably heard or said it all. While there’s always going to be growing pains with a quickly expanding metropolis, there are some beautiful changes that come with such an influx of diversity too. For this Denver Native, one of the best changes comes in the form of all the street art taking over the sides of pretty much any open structure face. You can turn almost any corner within the greater Denver metro area and you’re bound to bump into someones creation. Some areas have even come to be known for their constant display of giant, custom, and colorful masterpieces. Take the popular Denver RiNo district for example. Home to what’s become a street-alley studio of sorts, known as Crush Walls and it draws to even internationally recognized artists to get their piece of the action. Shepard Fairey, for example, made a stop through Denver this last go around to take part in the Crush Walls annual changeover of murals. While Denver has indeed become a haven for transplants, a large number are seeming to be artists (in one form or another) and these talented migrants are chomping at the bit to leave their thumbprint on the city. With all the influx, all the change, and all the growth, it’s important to remember where the city has come from. What’s more, is seeing that it’s originators don’t get forgotten about or lost in all of the excitement. Denver Tales accomplishes exactly that and it’s creator, Meeg Conroy, has big plans for her interactive passion project.
Denver Tales shines its spotlight on not the artist herself, but individual Denver-based characters with a story to tell. Each unique person is represented by one of Meeg’s signature animal murals, all currently residing in the Crush Walls alleyway off 28th and Larimer. What makes this project unique is the continuation of each piece by the scanning of each mural’s respective QR code. This extends the viewers experience by presenting a custom, podcast-style interview about the subjects time in Denver and their respective art form. Like the lead artist herself, each conversation is real and raw and each one helps paint a now seemingly antiquated picture for anyone who’s moved to Denver in just the last 5-10 years. “Growing up I’ve always had a fascination with family and history. Anthropology was one of my majors, and specifically, I have a passion for the preservation of human identity and human culture” Meeg told us.
Her “tales” shine a spotlight on cultural leaders through-out Denver’s streets. Take Mandy Yoches, for example. The jazzy singer by night and bartender also by night who has an intimate understanding of the changes around the Denver Colfax area. She’s worked at just about all the best dives around town. Most of which are gone today, one of the many changes she expresses in her art. “Voted to legalize it, but the only thing getting high is the cost of living” she claims in one of her original tracks. According to www.PayScale.com, Denver’s cost of living now sits at a full 12% higher than the national average and as reported by Denver’s own, The Westword, rent prices have gone up over 48% since 2010. [Sourced: here]
My personal favorite is a conversation with a character known only as Hustleman, who’s story is likely to resonate with so many from Denver and around the country as well. Gentrification is a problem we face strongly today in many Denver neighborhoods, and as a proud Denver native myself I encourage everyone to listen to this episode (ok I think you should listen to every episode). Hustleman talks candidly about his life in Denver meaning the good, the bad, and the ugly. He’s also a multi-talented artist around town and don’t just take my word for it, but every bit of this conversation is fascinating.
Each of the stories Meeg presents to us peels back a different layer behind Denver’s growth, beauty, and culture. What started as a college thesis project called What Pumps The Heartbeat Of Humanity? has turned into a visual and interactive way to not only tell peoples stories but connect with the viewer. “A big issue that consistently comes up, specifically with areas like the Crush Walls alley, is people just walking through and not knowing anything about the artist, the art, the intention behind the art, yet they’re taking selfies and things and not really connecting to the greater depth and importance of it. I realized I could try to use art more as a vehicle for change, in a sense, as that is the bigger picture. I’ve always thought we all speak different languages. Visual art is one of mine and when people get what languages you speak then they can connect with that better. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people don’t find their true language or are sadly told not to.”
Perhaps the true beauty in this project is it’s unlimited potential to shine a light on more amazing stories and to “bridge the gap between all of the different art forms” as Meeg put it. “It got a little overwhelming in this first round, trying to decide what stories I wanted to highlight” Meeg told us. “But then I realized I can keep this run in the artist realm and move towards different categories in future projects. Keeping this going is one of the most important facets so I can highlight different aspects of the city. Maybe one series could be all about the homeless population in the city and help shine a light on the problem as a whole.”
We are so excited to help support Meeg on her journey and you can keep up with this visionary artist around town including at her upcoming art reveal February 22nd at Tooey’s Off Colfax. Until then, do yourselves a favor and add the Denver Tales podcast series to your playlist. You can view all the photos and hear each podcast here!