$$ Went Out Of State, Out Of Country

DENVER (CBS4) – Denver International Airport is spending nearly $300,000 for what’s known as “street art,” or graffiti, but none of the money is going to Colorado graffiti artists.

Instead, DIA selected two artists from California and one from Brazil to receive the money, even paying for an immigration lawyer to help get the Brazilian artist to Denver.

“Our selection committee did not choose Colorado artists. They felt the three artists who did create this work in the end were the best of that pool of candidates and the cream of the crop,” said Jenny Schiavone, a spokesperson for DIA.

The fees paid to the artists come out of DIA revenue derived from parking, concessions, vendor rents and landing fees.

“It is public money,” Schiavone said.

But the exclusion of Colorado graffiti artists has left some locals wondering why they weren’t invited to compete for the work and didn’t make the cut.

“I would say, ‘Where is my share?’ ” asked Ratha Sok, a 22-year-old Denver native who paints murals and graffiti full time. ‘We need to hit a home run in our backyard first, and create impact and create change within ourselves and our own communities.”

Sok said he doesn’t really charge much for his work. He did one colorful mural for a Denver company in exchange for spray paint and some Nuggets tickets. He said he would likely have done the 100-foot long murals for DIA for $5,000 to $10,000, a fraction of the $300,000 DIA paid.

The airport paid Los Angeles graffiti artist David Choe $75,000 for the 100-foot long mural he created. Another $135,000 went to Sam Flores of San Francisco and Brazilian artist Rafael Pierri, also known as “Highraff,” received $75,000. DIA paid $9,050 for an immigration lawyer to assist with securing a visa for Pierri so he could travel to Denver. The three artists were collectively dubbed “The Terminal Kings.”

DIA says about half of its public art is created by Colorado artists, but for this project none made the cut. An art committee at DIA invited 36 artists to compete for the Terminal Kings project. Only two of the artists invited were from Colorado. The other 34 artists solicited for the project came primarily from the east and west coasts of the United States, and from 17 countries ranging from Poland to Scotland to Greece.

“We always want local artists involved, absolutely,” Schiavone said.

But in this case, DIA’s selection panel favored graffiti artists from beyond Colorado’s borders.

“The members of the artist selection panel found Pierri, Choe and Flores to be the best choice for the job,” Schiavone said.

“Denver has a lot of underdogs. There is a lot of amazing talent out there. The city needs to search further in the community to find true talent,” Sok said.

The graffiti murals created by Choe, Pierri and Flores will be used as construction barriers at the airport over the next five years to help conceal ongoing construction projects.

DIA said it is required to spend money on art due to Denver’s “1% For Art” requirement for public facilities. According to Schiavone, the ordinance requires that 1 percent of any capital improvement project greater than $1 million be set aside for the inclusion of public art at the facility.

– Written by Brian Maass for CBSDenver.com

Comments (46)
  1. Laurence Washington says:

    Mark Twain said, “An expert is anyone who lives more than 100 miles away.”

    1. Joe says:

      Now those murals or worth way more than that. The article should say they invested in these not “spends.” David Choe is really popular thanks to Facebook IPO and his works go for millions now.

  2. Vandalz says:

    It’s too bad they can’t hold onto the funds and put it to a vote so that jobs can be saved and they can help with that $100 million budget deficit before they spend so much money on frivolous things like art.
    I also wonder who in Denver City Government decides what is “art” and who to purchase it from. I would be curious to know if there’s a connection between contractors and decision makers….
    It seems they are spending a lot of money on large projects that could and should have waited until there is a budget surplus.

    1. Harold says:

      I totally agree!

    2. Heidi says:

      Our government loves to waste money. We the people loves to spend it.
      Our government loves to waste money. We the people wants a better education for our children.
      Our government loves to waste money. We the teens complains there nothing for us to do.
      I say why not let the teen express themselves in graffiti contest at the airport. Our government could save money. The teen teens would have something to do by expressing themselves We could make america beautiful by doing this all over the USA.

    3. Dazer says:

      Art is not frivolous.

  3. Ron Mays says:

    Denver area artist are use to being shunned. Thats why I for one stopped showing my artwork in the local gallerys 10 yrs. ago. However if anybody out there wants to write me a check for $3000.000 and loan me a small warehouse for a year, I promise to give the people of Colorado a one man artshow they will never forget. Cmon people of Colorado, I Dare You !

  4. shane says:

    They could of got local artist that would of some it just to build there portfolio

  5. GP EZ says:

    Vandalz, its my understanding its a “city” ordinance of some kind that some monies for art is required. And DIA has its own budget. Its seperate from Denver’s general fund budget. They are their own city. There will be politics in art always. There are many great artists in Denver.

  6. BSmith says:

    Really sad, that a government agency would shun a local.

  7. K_R_H says:

    Hopefully local artists will grafitti over this grafitti in suppor t of hiring a local artist.

    1. obhtn3 says:

      Pretty stupid idea! Because of idiots like you, maybe that is the reason a local artist was not chosen!

  8. Jennifer says:

    “DIA said it is required to spend money on art due to Denver’s “1% For Art” requirement for public facilities. According to Schiavone, the ordinance requires that 1 percent of any capital improvement project greater than $1 million be set aside for the inclusion of public art at the facility.”

    II thought the purpose of these sort of ordinances was to stimulate the art community and culture of Colorado. I mean, it is DENVER International Airport. If I ran the place, I would want Colorado Artists at least for the “neat” factor if nothing else.

  9. drew says:

    david choe is one of my favorite artists, so i, for one, am glad they spent the money to bring in one of the most talented young artists in the country. you get what you pay for. DIA didn’t want some piece of junk that looks like it belongs on the alley side of colfax tattoo parlor. they wanted something beautiful and original and i think they got it.

    1. RAM says:

      Well, they have a piece of “junk” blue meth addicted horse on the way in and three rediculous”clouds on the way out!! so I doubt they care much for what the damn thing looks like.

      1. Dazer says:

        Eye of the beholder…Eye of the beholder.

  10. annchovie says:

    Prison art. Very fitting for DIA and the underground shelters used for the New World Order criminals.

    1. J. says:

      Time to take you medicine and be put back in your padded room looney.

  11. Wanda Townend says:

    I disagree with the committee, I have been working with Colorado Artist for the last 25 years, we have EXCELLENT, talent here in Colorado! The money should have been spent within the state!

    1. drew says:

      please share some of these artists. (not trying to be a jerk, i really would like to know)

      1. Brian Maass-CBS4 says:

        Drew- Here is a list of the artists DIA invited to submit work for consideration.Two were from Colorado:

        1. Pose2: Philadelphia

        2. Os Gemeos: Sao Paulo

        3. Sam Flores: San Francisco

        4. Jolt: Denver

        5. David Choe: Los Angeles

        6. London Police: Amsterdam

        7. Berzerker: Ottawa

        8. Mad C: Berlin

        9. Faile: New York City

        10. Evan Hecox: Denver

        11. Highraff: Sau Paulo

        12. Jim Houser: Philadelphia

        13. Roberto Delgado: Los Angeles

        14. Onesto: Sao Paulo

        15. Dalek: New London, CT

        16. Zbiok: Warsaw

        17. Banksy: London

        18. Ryan McGinness: New York City

        19. Iona Rozeal Brown: Washington DC

        20. Barry McGee: San Francisco

        21. Shepard Fairey: Los Angeles

        22. Connor Harrington: London

        23. REMED: Madrid

        24. Friends With You: Maimi

        25. Dr.Lakra: Oaxaca, Mexico

        26. KAWS: New York City

        27. Sol Crew: UK?

        28. Jeff Soto: Riverside, CA

        29. Nina: ?

        30. DOZE Green: San Fransisco

        31. Herbert Baglione: Sao Paulo

        32. Bugre: Brazil

        33. David Shrigley: Glasgow

        34. Scribe: Kansas City

        35. Clayton Brothers: Los Angeles

        36. Same84: Athens, Greece

        37. Okuda: Spain

        38. Sonik: Boston

  12. Jim says:

    What a waste of my money! 300k! This is exactly why I resent paying taxes. This is exactly why we are in dire straights financially. This is almost as stupid as the bridge to nowhere!

    1. Dazer says:

      Look up the word “philistine” in the dictionary sometime. You’ll recognize the page because it’ll be the one with the mirror.

  13. Felix says:

    Karen Leigh: “Why are they still spending so much money on art?” Are you kidding me? This is muckraking journalism at worst, intended to get the public riled up against art in the name of taxpayer dollars. Art is a basic human tenet; it beautifies, it excites, it confronts and it has value in our society, value which is slowly chipped away by cheap news stories like this and political opposition. If one listens to the story correctly, this project is being funded by fees we pay for parking, tickets and airport use, money which I feel DIA should use as they see fit.

    And since when should art have boundaries? DIA invests heavily in local Colorado artists. Every time I walk through the airport, I see nothing but Colorado artists, the best being the large mural by Leo Tanguma in the Great Hall. How many local Coloradans flock to the Denver Art Museum to see exhibits from all over the world? Why should DIA be any different? We waste billions on public/art buildings and projects all the time, most of which (including DIA) aren’t designed by local Coloradans.

    Instead of condemning DIA, we should applaud them for their support of the arts and for bringing in talent to our INTERNATIONAL airport that we may never have the chance to see, to share, to be amazed by, and yes, even disagree with. This is what art does, not matter the origin of the artist.

    1. gorman howell says:

      This is the problem with the arts in this country–your attitude that art committees’ purpose should always be self-aggrandizement, to make the world appreciate how “international” and cosmopolitan and sophisticated your little township is. I got news for you–that’s boring, and not why people should come to Colorado. What would be interesting is a group of local arts organizers (not bureaucrats and overpaid/overfunded committees) who have a proven track record of supporting local talent and finding unique individuals that can be found no where else EXCEPT in Colorado. THAT would be a reason to come to Denver, NOT because we want to see yet another mid-level US city kow-towing to the modernist aesthetics of New York and what’s trendy. Ironically, it’s exactly artists that are NOT trendy, but different and unique to Denver, which would make me want to visit Denver. Otherwise, I can just go to NY or LA anytime. Get it?

    2. gorman howell says:

      Also, your attitude is why local Symphony directors, instead of trying to get the classical music out to the people, would much rather pad their resumes, and try and “get” Yo-Yo Ma or Bartoldi or some other famous person to get record draws for their venue. It’s politics and self-interest, and you fell for it. Meanwhile, thousands of deserving local talent languish b/c of your attitudes. Your attitude is exactly the same as why outrageous salaries are explained for execs–“we need to find the talent, and therefore we have to pay for it”. Really? For college administrator salaries? What are they, rocket scientists or brain surgeons? No, just more bureaucrats at the trough.

  14. Kerry says:

    Surprise, surprise. The talking heads of the local news just don’t understand why the airport would spend $300,000 on graffiti art. You would think with David Choe sweeping the news circuit recently they would take this as an opportunity to brag, but no, they spend time talking to a 22-year-old who would happily do the job for some paint and basketball tickets. Dude, no diss but you aren’t David Choe or Sam Flores, just look at your letter style for starters… And local news anchors, research a story before reporting it. You think when Leonardo was painting the Mona Lisa there wasn’t some local kid willing to paint a stupid version of an ugly woman for 2 sheckles? Anyways, I have to give props to DIA for really pushing some art in a freaking Airport, apparently 1% of their budget goes to art and that is great. Back to the news, you are hypocrites and sycophants. Next week you will be doing a story about how graffiti is bad and little Ratha Sok will be facing 2 years in prison for doing graffiti.

  15. Ibn Whackinit says:

    How many “Rio Grande Frogmen” do have here doing this daily on private property? Couldn`t some enlightened “Activist” Judge sentence one of the offenders to do this? have one of DPD`s “Finest” supervise.. (When not sleeping in a back hallway).

  16. Justin says:

    This story is ridiculous. Do any of you people who are upset with DIA for doing this even know the artists they chose? They are AMAZING world renowned artists that can produce FLAWLESS art that people are absolutely amazed by. I guarantee that if there was an artist in Denver that was on their level they would have invested this substantial amount of money into them without hesitation. If i had a budget of $300,000 i would gladly spend them money on artwork that i know for a fact will be timeless and gain hype. This is a good thing for a city, it could give major artist reason to go check out the scene. It could give smaller artists inspiration. It could become a reason for travelers and art fans to come and produce in a great NON major city. If this story never was played out the way it was, I would have been more interested in seeing this art work and coming to visit Denver.

    And by the way the banner below this comment box is advertising BANKSY canvas prints NOT local Denver artists…….. absolute hypocrites CBS denver

    1. gorman howell says:

      Thanks for the hyperbole, but all art is subjective, even graffiti art. The fact that Denver would agree to paper their walls with graffiti art is bad enough. But to act like they are the Guggenheim or National Gallery, and solicit worldwide commissions simply means…they have too much damn money to play with, and they are not interested in supporting local artists at all, but padding their resumes. They’re just overpaid bureaucrats. I mean look, they hire their own PR person to answer for their shameful actions. Pathetic.

      1. Dazer says:

        That’s what PR people do. They relate the organization’s ideas to the public.

  17. Guest says:

    Art is supposed to be free,spending money on art is a crime.
    Id rather they let local schoolchildren paint the place than that.

  18. Asodeska says:

    After sticking us with that plastic horse, they now want to stick us with graffiti ‘art’?
    This is another scam paid for by our money.

  19. The Truth says:

    If you really cared that much about “your money” you wouldn’t be waiting for the “NEWS” to tell you how your money was spent. Go back to your suburban lives, with your IKEA art, and sad, excuses for careers. Don’t you have 3 kids with kool-aid mustaches to feed? This guy said it best.. http://thatsthehookup.com/graffiti/denver-international-airport-dia-art-installation-david-choe-sam-flores-highraff/

    1. Scandinavian says:

      Oh please! Spare us the pomposity. Obviously, you are a much better person than the rest of us, because you live in some hip, upscale inner city digs, shop only at small, exclusive boutiques (even for paper towels), and have a glamourous, intriguing career.. You’re really impressive and important, Truth. We all expect you to deign yourself our leader, and all Ikea-shopping dolts will follow you anywhere.

      Too bad you don’t have anything important to do, such as feed children.

  20. gorman howell says:

    Just about all public art in this country is now controlled by institutional bureaucrats and over-funded committees who like to think they are major art contributors, but are actually feeding off the gravy trough and padding their resumes to get “big names”. If they really appreciated art, they know they could find decent art in their own state. They have too much money to play with to go out of state/country to try and find, of all things, graffiti artists. I don’t care how good these other graffiti artists are. Fact is, art is subjective, not everyone even likes graffiti art, and to use public money to fund what their modern art agenda, while they try and look like civilized patron saints of art, is an abomination. Coloradans should be up in arms about this ungrateful and unappreciative use of state dollars. The committee should be disbanded and re-peopled by those who have a proven track record of hosting local art fairs throughout the state–you know, people who really appreciate and have done something to actually promote art, not just high-paid bureaucrats with their own PR spokesperson.

  21. righttrack says:

    Just another fine example of giving away American jobs.

  22. LDUB says:

    Thank you DIA for emphasizing the “International” in our airport. It was an great feat to bring such amazing talent to Colorado. Flores, Highraff, and Choe are world renowned artists and we are lucky to have them exhibit their work here.

  23. John Mc says:

    Way to Support the local!

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  26. Dave says:

    Isn’t 300k 1% of 30 MILLION dollars? I’d be more interested to know why our 15 year old airport is already having another 30 million spent. Wasn’t it way over budget to begin with and has already had scads more money thrown at it?

  27. Trash Trashisfree says:

    Money should have gone to Colorado Artists only. Or put in real bathrooms at 45 minute waiting. What kind of modern airport still uses porta potties?

  28. Jeff S says:

    These are highly sought after, highly skilled, world renown artists following in the footsteps of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, and we are lucky to have them creating custom pieces for us in Denver. I applaud DIA’s efforts and am embarrassed for CBS 4 in their portrayal of this story. Not only for implying that just about anybody could have painted the murals and they would have been just as good. But for also suggesting that art be paid for with some kind of barter system using supplies and basketball tickets. CBS 4 clearly holds artists and their craft in the highest regard.

    I’d like to know why a local art expert from MOCA, Denver Art Museum or one of the many high caliber galleries wasn’t included in your “investigation” Mr. Maass. I suspect because they wouldn’t support your incredibly biased position.

    Thanks to Sam Flores, David Choe, Highraff and the staff at DIA that knows what they are doing. CBS 4 clearly does not.

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