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Latino muralist adds color to West Colfax underpass

Julio Mendoza began painting portions of the bridge in April, a month before the Sun Valley community held its first night market under the viaduct.

DENVER — The Sun Valley community held its first international night market under the West Colfax viaduct this month. 

The viaduct sits just south of Empower Field. It's an area that for many years has mostly remained deserted except during Broncos games. Today, it is one of Denver's most diverse neighborhoods and home to Meow Wolf and Raices Brewing Company. 

Last month, volunteers, alongside muralist Julio Mendoza, came together to kick off the West Colfax Viaduct Improvement Project, painting portions of the bridge with a mural that Mendoza hopes will pay homage to the array of cultures in the area. 

"The design is focused on artistically representing the Sun Valley communities and their diversity,” Mendoza said.  

Credit: Julio Mendoza
West Colfax viaduct mural

Mendoza's love for art began after seeing his brother and father paint when he was little. He was first inspired by old cartoons and eventually street art. 

He has been in Colorado since 2001 and was born in El Paso, Texas. He lived in Juarez, Mexico until he was 11. 

Mendoza felt art was his calling, but ended up studying criminal justice after being discouraged by how difficult it would be to get a job with an art degree. He worked in his area of study for three years, but never feeling satisfied, he left criminal justice behind and focused fully on art.  

"What brought me [to art] was the desire to live life doing what I really love and not regretting not even trying to do it," he said.

Seeing his work on display in larger projects now, like the Sun Valley mural, makes him feel grateful for every opportunity he had and happy that he followed his love of art.  

“Sometimes it's like you don't believe it so much," Mendoza said. "Thinking that from the beginning, when they gave me my first project, which I told you was [painting] an electrical box, something small, for me it was and is a very big achievement just to see something that I paint there on the street."

Credit: Julio Mendoza

He has been doing murals full-time for the last year and a half.

Credit: KUSA

Mendoza encourages aspiring artists to go after their dreams, to find mentors, to network and to not be afraid to ask questions or apply for government grants and art calls. 

"For music, for art, for painting, for everything there is some kind of support," he said.

“The main thing is to trust yourself and support yourself, cheer for yourself and do it for yourself. Because at the end of the day, if you do it for a person, your parents, whatever, in the end, who is going to live your life is you," he said. "You don't want to regret not doing what you love."

RELATED: Muralist painting West Colfax viaduct in front of Empower Field

The Sun Valley Rising's Viaduct Night Market held on May 15 is part of a series of five West Denver Rising Initiative events celebrating different cultures in the area. 

According to Denverite, residents at the event were able to show off their culinary and craft talents as they turned the unused underpass into a colorful night market. It brought in over 30 vendors, food, music and people under the viaduct. Those feeling a bit more competitive were able to enter a pho eating contest. 

The next night market is August 20 for Sun Valley's Back to School night. 

Credit: Julio Mendoza

If you have any suggestions for other neighborhoods I should check out send me an email at laura.casillas@9news.com.

RELATED: Colorado Chicano/a murals listed as 'endangered'



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