DENVER, Colo. — A new mural on the corner of W Kentucky Avenue and S Irving Street in Denver's Westwood neighborhood may appear to drivers passing by as just a collection of faces. But to residents of the surrounding area, it is a family portrait.
"I am trying to capture the authentic side of Southwest Denver," Juan Fuentes, the artist behind the mural, said. "I wanted to document and capture the side that I see, which is a side that sometimes does not get highlighted."
The over 100 larger-than-life pictures in the mural, that stretch a city block, contain faces of residents in Westwood. The pictures reflect the diverse and vibrant community that live there.
The neighborhood has faced extensive hardship from senseless gun violence in 2020. Numerous communities off of Federal Boulevard. have been torn apart by drive-by shootings and gang-related violence over the summer.
"This past year there has been a lot of grief, a lot of heaviness on this side of town," Fuentes said.
The mural's unveiling is part of a weekend of healing in an attempt by leaders to find a new way forward.
"It is a moment of healing and a moment to just grieve and come together as a community," Nicholas Martinez, an executive director of the nonprofit Transform Education Now, said. "There has been a lot of tragedy, a lot of violence, a lot of loss over the past eight months, but there is a lot to celebrate."
The unveiling brought civic, religious and political leaders to the mural on Sunday as a way to accept and embrace the message of unity.
"I want them to see themselves. I want them to feel proud of themselves, of who they are, of their roots here," Fuentes said as he pointed to the children. "I want them to have a daily reminder of why we keep pushing forward."