DENVER — A mural in the Sun Valley neighborhood of Denver has been a meaningful part of the community for more than a decade. But earlier this year, the tenants leasing the building, under new ownership, painted over the mural.
Now, months later, the artist and the community are still waiting for the dispensary business to make it right.
"I always wanted to honor my mom in a way I felt was meaningful," said David Ocelotl Garcia, a local Denver painter and sculptor. "So this mural for the Sisters of Color building, I was thinking of a character called Coatlicue. She’s kind of a mother earth character. And that's my mom in the center as Coatlicue."
Telling a story through art is what Garcia does. You may recognize some of his creations across Denver, like his work in Plaza de La Raza called "El Viaje."
But his oldest, most personal mural was his first from 2008 called "Huitzilopochtli" or Hummingbird Warrior along Eighth Avenue.
"It’s no longer there, but it was a community center in Sun Valley neighborhood," said Garcia. The building was owned by an organization called Sisters of Color. It isn't a community center anymore, but Sisters of Color still owns it.
When one of the owners, Adrienna Lujan, met Garcia 12 years ago, they hit it off right away and she commissioned him to paint the community center.
"I didn’t know what I was doing to be honest," Garcia laughed. "I didn’t know what I was doing, but I felt that energy and I went with it."
It took months and lots of work, but after that summer in 2008, Garcia's career took off and his mural became a staple part of the community.
"Everything around here was warehouses at the time," said Lujan. "We really created a pop of light for folks. This mural was the beginning of a lot for many artists. It wasn't just planting the seed for one mural, but it planted the seed for community and leadership for future generations," she said.
It was Garcia's first commissioned artwork and it was dedicated to his mom.
"My very first thing that I feel like was meaningful, I wanted her to be there in it," Garcia said.
She's gone now. And so is his tribute to her.
Despite the terms of a lease agreement, the current tenants painted over Garcia's mural in April.
"No changes or alterations to the building without prior written consent," said Lujan. "It is very clearly written."
Months later, they said, the dispensary has yet to make it right.
"I'm sad," Lujan said. "It was like a piece of my heart was taken and a piece of the community's heart was taken."
Their only request is that the owners pay to repaint the mural they covered.
"It was almost like a place that I created for my family," said Garcia, who has sent the dispensary owner invoices for a repaint job, and has even come down on his price without a response. "It's very emotional that it's covered up.. that it's destroyed. I don’t care about the price I don’t care about the money, myself."
9NEWS reached out to the dispensary Tuesday, but did not receive a response. Both Garcia and Lujan said, they just want the work to be respected and for the mural to be brought back.
"There are a lot of people supporting this mural who want to see it come back and see everything be fixed. It’s not going to go away," Garcia said.
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