Art students complete mural at CSU Spur campus during CRUSH Walls event

Video by Jen Smith and Ron Bend

A group of graduate student artists from Colorado State University successfully completed its mural on a building that will adjoin the future CSU Spur campus as part of CRUSH Walls, a Denver street art festival held Sept. 14-20.

As part of a partnership with the CSU System, eight students in CSU’s Department of Art and Art History painted images of Colorado’s official state fish, bird and flower on a building that will be renovated and eventually attached to the water building at the CSU Spur campus, expected to be complete in 2022. CSU Spur is located within the boundaries of the Denver’s River North (RiNo) Arts District, where the CRUSH Walls event spanned 30 blocks and featured 40 murals made by about 100 artists.

“I feel so humbled that we get to be around such amazing artists that are doing such amazing artwork,” said painter and Master of Fine Arts student Andrea Bagdon, who led the effort as president of the University’s Master of Visual Arts Association.

“Working with CRUSH, the best feeling we can equate to this is just gratitude,” added Clark Valentine, whose concentration is drawing. “It’s just a great opportunity that we get to be the ‘little guys’ in a really, really big pond.”

Photos by John Eisele

Sustainability theme

Besides painting and drawing, the students hail from a variety of concentrations, including sculpture, metalsmithing and printmaking. They chose to focus on five elements of sustainability – partnership, planet, prosperity, peace and people – to tie into the themes of water, food and health at the future CSU Spur campus.

They sketched out the design of the mural by hand, then scaled it up and laser-cut it into stencils made of butcher paper. The students placed those paper stencils on the wall and used markers to transfer the design to the building, then applied paint to create images of a greenback cutthroat trout, lark bunting, and white and lavender columbine. The blue and black mural also features an image of the “hand of the philosophers” historically used in alchemy. The students employed a scientific illustration approach called stippling, in which dot patterns create shading.

“The scale of the building itself was a challenge,” Bagdon said.

Photos by Cyrus Martin, CSU System

Getting a lift

For printmaker Johanna Guilfoyle, a highlight was operating the large construction lifts the artists used to access higher parts of the 27-foot-high wall.

“It’s just a cool feeling being able to operate this big piece of heavy machinery that I didn’t ever think I would know how to operate,” Guilfoyle said.

CRUSH, which stands for Creative Rituals Under Social Harmony, was started by Denver artist Robin Munro in 2010 as an annual art celebration that turns the streets and alleys of RiNo into permanent open-air galleries. The students and Eleanor Moseman, the head of the Department of Art and Art History, say they hope the mural painting at the Spur campus becomes a permanent part of the annual CRUSH event.

The finished mural

Photo by Cyrus Martin, CSU System

About CSU Spur

In 2022, the CSU System will open CSU Spur, where innovative ideas and unforgettable experiences come to life at the National Western Center. CSU Spur’s three buildings at the center of the landmark project in north Denver will ignite and fuel new ideas around water, food and health and their impact on our lives and our world. Spur is where learning is open and accessible to all. Where researchers tackle the world’s most pressing problems around water, food and health. Where art and culture challenge and surround you. Where rural and urban, local and global intersect. Learn more at