Young muralists paint ‘brightness and hope’

Englewood Schools art students beautify neglected stretch along creek

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Englewood got a bit brighter this spring as Emily Ancona’s art students livened up a drab stretch of Little Dry Creek with a sprawling mural — the latest in a series of art projects around town led by the Englewood High School art teacher.

The new mural adorns a retaining wall along the final stretch of Little Dry Creek before it joins the South Platte River, along a stretch of busy highway sandwiched between mobile home parks and industrial uses.

The mural incorporates brainstorms from Ancona’s students, featuring everything from king-size toadstools to mountain sunsets to top hat-festooned mallards.

“I hope it brings brightness and hope for the future,” Ancona said. “Any art we can put up that reflects the individuals in our community is a good thing.”

Ancona partnered with the Museum of Outdoor Arts, which bankrolled the project — the latest in a series of collaborations with the museum that have seen the teacher and her students paint electrical boxes and put up murals on walls along Broadway.

Ancona said the idea to paint the retaining wall came from a local resident who said it was crying out for art.

From there, the community came together.

She was joined by Englewood Middle School art teacher Erin Rademacher, who helped plan and implement the mural. City officials quickly greenlighted the project. Chiles Friedman, Englewood’s 2020 Citizen of the Year, helped clean up trash to prepare the site. Gallegos Corp., a stone masonry business around the corner, set up temporarary scaffolding for students to use as a bridge to cross the creek. Artist Amanda Wolf helped plan the project.

But the creative impulse came mostly from Englewood’s students.

“I’m proud of us,” said Ally Garcia, a sophomore who took part in the painting. “Our ideas got distributed really well, and it was great watching the mural come to life.”

Passing bicyclists and pedestrians were excited to see the mural going up, Garcia said.

Garcia said she lives on what she calls Englewood’s “outskirts” — the northwest corner, cut off from the heart of town, and she was glad to see some beautification in the sometimes-overlooked corridor.

She also said she’s grateful for her art teacher.

“She’s my favorite person in the world,” Garcia said of Ancona. “She’s really open and honest. She makes people comfortable. I love art — it’s what I do all day, and she pushes me to be a better artist.”

Ancona, who grew up in Englewood and was a 2006 graduate of the school where she now teaches, said she’s thrilled to take part in prettying up her hometown.

“Englewood has gone through a lot of changes since I was in high school,” she said. “Downtown is livelier than I’ve ever seen it. It feels like a revival, and I’m proud we’ve been able to add some art to it.”

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