Crush Walls gets cancelled: Denver’s celebrated mural festival gets forced out of RiNo after sexual abuse allegations against founder

Crush Walls gets cancelled: Denver’s celebrated mural festival gets forced out of RiNo after sexual abuse allegations against founder

“We have parted ways with RiNo."

VicesJune 01, 2021 By Will Brendza

Crush Walls is one of the premiere mural festivals in the US. Founded over a decade ago, Crush Walls started as a means of "decriminalizing" graffiti — redirecting the artistic energy of Denver's rampant vandals, to rebeautify Denver's shantiest industrial zones. It's grown into an art event that draws renowned street artists from around the country, to Denver, to the River North (RiNo) Arts Dirstict, to decorate the city with their brilliant and colorful mural masterpieces.

In the years since it began, Crush Walls has become synonymous with that ever-hip part of Denver: the RiNo Arts District. It was a match made in street-art heaven: an event uplifting, promoting and supporting professional local artists, held in a district dedicated to “championing the arts and local entrepreneurialism."

But even such a perfect marriage couldn’t survive the cascade of sexual assault allegations recently leveled against Crush’s founder, Robin Munro (aka Dread). Just days after the September 2020 Crush Walls event, another local Denver artist Robyn Frances (aka Grow Love) came forward on social media to accuse Munro of having sexually assaulted her — and in the days after, a handful of other women stood up and came forward to join her.

Subsequently on December 2nd, the co-founder and director of RiNo Arts District, Tracy Weil, announced they would be cutting all ties to Munro and his mural festival moving forward. They didn't mention anything about Frances or her Instagram accusations — but the message seemed pretty clear. 

“The RiNo Art District is no longer affiliated with Crush Walls," Weil told Westword in an interview. "We'll be continuing to provide paid opportunities for artists with our mural programming and new events in 2021. Keep an eye out on our website and our social media for more info. Street art in the art district will continue to create vivid images and bold messages that are so important during these times."

As for Munro, he categorically denies these allegations. His lawyer, Kathyn Stimson, called them “demonstrably false” and clarified that Crush and RiNo are actually mutually parting ways, “contrary to the misguided conclusions in recent media articles.”

“Mr. Munro is back in control of Crush Walls, is actively creating a panel of artists to further grow and expand the Crush Walls movement.” Stimson wrote in a statement. “Crush Walls remains the exclusive mural art festival in the RiNo area, and Mr. Munro looks forward to growing the Crush Walls movement within the district and beyond."

Which, certainly makes it sound as though Munro will still be holding the event; and even, that he still plans on holding it in RiNo… despite the art district's overt divorce from the street art festival.

Usually, Crush Walls is held every September. The event featured a lineup of artists, staged throughout the RiNo area to compose their murals. People could wander and watch as they bar- and brewery-hopped around RiNo, enjoying live art happening in real time. Crush has become an art-fan-favorite event over the years, and particularly since RiNo has become the hipster headquarters of the City of Denver. It was like a little RiNo holiday — one that raised tens of thousands of dollars every year to support artists and which dramatically improved the aesthetics of Denver's old industrial railroad district. It created a middle ground for the city and its numerous graffiti artists to mutually satisfy one another's goals. It's been a huge element of RiNo's budding new artistic charcter.

However, this year, Crush Walls won’t be happening. Not in RiNo and not anywhere else in the City of Denver. In a statement he posted to Instagram, just four days ago, Munro finally addressed his RiNo problem (notably without mention of the allegations) announcing that the 2021 Crush Walls Festival has been cancelled. He wrote:

“We have parted ways with RiNo. I hold exclusive rights to hold this festival in the district till 2023. But it was never my intention to keep this confined to one space. I would love to see this grow city wide and beyond, and now I’m free to do so. I’ve had several inquires about other location and am working towards some new areas and partnerships. After careful consideration I’ve decided to take the year off and focus on my family, my two year old son, and my own personal art practices. This will also provide me time to refocus on the fudimental elements and future of CRUSH. I would like to return in 2022 bigger and better.”

Where, when and if that happens, all remain to be seen. But it certainly doesn't sound like Munro is about to give up. 

What is for sure happening, though, is the Babe Walls Festival, a mural art festival highlighting, “womxn and non-binary” artists. Organized by Frances herself, along several other local female artists, this mural painting festival will be held in Arvada July 15-18th, it will feature 26 artist painting approximately 15 walls along the Ralston Creek Trail. RiNo Art District has also announced that they’re launching their own ongoing, street art series called the RiNo Mural Program that will facilitate monthly installations throughout the art district.

So if you’re hungry for some live mural art, don’t worry — there will be ample opportunity to get out and watch artists slinging paint. With or without Crush Walls.