A new billboard located along the off-ramp from U.S. Interstate 25 to the Auraria Campus and downtown Denver may catch drivers’ eyes this month.
Designed to look like advertising, the billboard consists of three circles in the colors of the U.S. flag—red, white and blue—with a black dove and the text “STOP HATE” inside of each.
Beginning Feb. 1, travelers headed toward the Pepsi Center and Denver Center for Performing Arts will see it on their right, in front of the Denver skyline. It will remain up for the month of February, which is Black History Month.
“Billboard art seeks to communicate with those who do not necessarily visit art museums and galleries,” says artist George Rivera, professor of art and art history at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Displaying art in public spaces has grown in popularity and acceptance since the second half of the 20th century, with public works by famous artists such as Keith Haring, Banksy and Jenny Holzer painting or projecting their works on walls, buildings and streets. But to date, artists have not taken full advantage of billboard art, according to Rivera.
Rivera created this public art piece—his first ever billboard work—to address hate as a response to the current political climate, Black Lives Matter and the COVID-19 pandemic. It seeks to confront this issue in a simple and straightforward message without specifying any specific group.
“To truly communicate with audiences, art must be understood and be relatable to our own lives. My artwork asks us to stop hate from growing and to examine the phenomenon of hate in our own hearts.”
In his artist statement about the work, Rivera says: “We are living in a time wherein the ethos of American society has given rise to division and hate. We are at the crossroads of sinking into the negative depths of democracy or rising to assert values we cherish.”
He continues: “Hate has consequences. Death can result from hate that is either a physical death (as with George Floyd) or a societal death (as a result of discrimination that limits actualization).”
Rivera founded the artist collective Artnauts in 1996, and has traveled extensively to take art to places of international contention and address social issues of our time.
Before joining CU Boulder’s Art and Art History department, Rivera spent 20 years as a sociology professor. He said his experience in sociology added a heightened social consciousness to his teaching and his ongoing work to bring art to communities impacted by conflict.
“To truly communicate with audiences, art must be understood and be relatable to our own lives,” says Rivera. “My artwork asks us to stop hate from growing and to examine the phenomenon of hate in our own hearts.”
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