By: Miriam Brown ’21
Amaury Bargioni ’19 has been painting a mural on the side of the Whitney Electric Building for the last two blocks. Soon, it will all be destroyed, and he can’t wait.
The Whitney Electric Building, located behind Wooglin’s Deli on North Tejon Street, is one of many buildings that will be knocked down to make room for the new Robson Arena. Most students don’t know the building by its name, but instead by its colorfully painted walls and long history with Colorado College artist-activists.
In 2014, the CC InterDisciplinary Experimental Arts program commissioned Pueblo artist Jaque Fragua to paint a mural on the north side of the building, as part of an exhibition entitled “Rhythm Nations: Transnational Hip Hop In the Gallery, in the Street, and on the Stage.” For his part, Fragua painted rug patterns from different Native American tribes, commenting on the inability for many to see distinctions between tribes. On the top, he painted bar codes to express frustration with feeling like “just a census number” in the United States.
In addition, murals on the east side of the building were painted by Mike 360, a street artist working in Albuquerque, as part of a collaboration with Assistant Professor of Race, Ethnicity, and Migration Studies Jamal Ratchford’s class on hip hop culture during the 2016-17 academic year. The murals stayed on the Whitney Building over the years — until now.
When Bargioni and members of the Art Department heard about plans for the building’s demolition, they saw an opportunity to turn the destruction into a celebration, all while honoring the building’s history with Fragua and his use of graffiti art for social commentary.
“People are mad about the hockey arena, and they’re mad about the buildings being taken down,” Bargioni says. “So I guess the project was born from the aim to make it not a problem that it’s being taken down, but more like it’s a good thing.”
The mural, titled the “Wall of Negativity,” will feature objects, ideas, and concepts that CC students want to see disappear from the community. Bargioni took the first turn, painting enlarged images of chains and a gun. The mural spans two walls, designed to look like one cohesive image from a distance. The walls are currently painted black, but members of the CC community will be invited to paint what they want to be rid of in white.
When the building is knocked down, Bargioni hopes to document its demolition along with the destruction of the Wall of Negativity, serving as a ritual cleansing of the CC community.
CC students, faculty, and staff can participate by painting on the mural on Sunday, April 14, from 1-5 p.m. at the Whitney Building. Supplies will be provided.
“I’d love for people to show up,” Bargioni says.