Love is in the air, and on the walls, at RiNo this week. After a year off, Parallel stories – a large-format, immersive cinematic installation featuring artists from Colorado – is back for its fourth run, through February 20. Perfectly timed with Valentine’s Day, this year’s theme focuses on something the world seems to desperately need these days: a good romance.
On a walking tour of Montreal, Side Stories co-founder Fiona Arnold was inspired by the projection of historical images along the city walls. In partnership with The Martin Family Foundation and RiNo Art District in 2017, their team brought this concept to Denver, but with their own twist. Rather than historical images, they decided to provide local artists with a single canvas – the city walls that surround them.
Now in their fourth year, Side Stories continues to inspire and support Denver’s art community. Through a highly competitive submission process, a panel of jurors selects five artists to feature in the event. These lucky few are then tasked with creating a large format cinematic experience to be projected along the walls of RiNo, creating a free “walking art experience” for the public. Plus, each of these artists receives a $5,000 stipend—a gift that could make a big difference to local creatives.
“It’s nice to get paid as an artist,” said Xadie James, a local musician and returning Side Stories artist. “In a very concrete way, it is important to invest money in artistic communities. It allows things like that, it goes very far. I’m super grateful for that.
This support from Denver Arts and Culture is crucial, now more than ever. A recent study published by the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts found that after peaking in 2019, the arts and culture community lost a decade of growth in 2020 alone. This resulted in a loss of economic activity of $1.5 billion in this sector, as well as a 46% decrease in awareness.
These staggering reports are what makes the mission of Side Stories so impactful and the theme of Side Stories 2022 so necessary. This year’s show features cinematic love stories created by five Colorado artists – Ella Vance, Xadie James, Andi Todaro, Nathalie Einterz and Travis Vermilye. Their films, displayed at locations scattered along Walnut and Larimer, are each very different from each other. No two artists had the same definition of love – each interpreting their mission in unique and eye-catching ways.
Created by a local artist Andi Todaro, The almost neglected ecstasy of laughter plays on a loop at 33rd and Larimer, projecting onto the towering pillars of the Dry Ice Factory. Her film explores the playfulness of sensuality after a year apart.
“It’s all these textures of these things that you might not notice or think are very sensual,” Todaro said. The piece is made up of sequences of random everyday objects – such as jelly, velvet, water pearls and jellyfish – paired with a poem written by the artist. She describes this work as a gratitude for the senses – how they enhance your life in ways we often overlook.
“You notice how cool things are when you look at them up close,” she explained. “Love is tough, relationships are tough, but remember there are some really cool things in even the most simplistic of objects.”
While Todaro’s concept is more abstract, other artists have taken a more traditional approach to the theme. Denver filmmaker Emma Vance used her canvas – the brick wall at the corner of 32nd and Larimer – to present a short silent film telling the story of three different love stories. The task of creating such works is both inspiring and demanding, and not just for the artists who create them.
“It was definitely a challenge,” the actress explained Ruby Leigh Pierce, who appears in Vance’s film. “Because there is no dialogue, there is nothing to rely on but the physical expressions of love.”
The five artists have created an exceptionally unique body of work, making the walk from film to film worthwhile on even the coldest nights. While the art featured in Side Stories may look different year after year, the immense gratitude these artists have for the event remains constant.
“This experience is always fantastic,” said returning artist Travis Vermilye. “It’s nice to go out and see something colorful and moving on the wall. We have so many murals in this area, it’s unique to see something changing all the time.
Side Stories is an immersive large-format art exhibition showcasing the film work of Colorado artists. The event runs until February 20 and is free to the public. To learn more about the event and the artists, or to see the tour map, visit their website or follow them on instagram.