Denver’s Chinatown past, present and future honored in new mural

DENVER — A mural that will honor historic Denver Chinatown is in the works. It sits on the side of the #4 Fire Station, right on the edge of what was once a vibrant commercial and cultural center that is now Lower Downtown.

“They had different businesses, locations, really an ethnic enclave,” said Joie Ha, vice chair of Colorado Asian Pacific Unite (CAPU), the group behind the mural. “Oct. On October 31, 1880, an anti-Chinese race riot broke out in which a white mob of several hundred people invaded Chinatown and destroyed all businesses, brutalized people and, unfortunately, also lynched a man by the name of Look Young.

In August 2021, CAPU successfully removed a plaque on the side of a building on the corner of 20th Street and Blake Street that contained a derogatory term referring to the race riot and did not mention Young’s name.

Denver’s Chinatown past, present and future honored in new mural

“After [the riot], the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed nationwide, there was a huge outpouring of anti-Chinese sentiment, and people just didn’t want Chinese people in their neighborhoods at the time. As a result, Chinatown could never really be rebuilt,” Ha said.

CAPU has now made efforts to retake Denver’s Chinatown.

“Physically and metaphorically,” Ha said. “To say that this used to be a Chinatown and used to have a thriving Chinese population – there are still Chinese here and there will be in the future.”

CAPU challenged artists: Represent Chinatown’s past, present and future.


Nalye Lor

Mural depicting the past, present and future of Denver’s Chinatown, by local artist Nalye Lor

“When they picked me, I was like, ‘Wait, are you sure? Did you send the wrong email?’ I know my name is often misspelled,” said Nalye Lor, the artist who created the winning concept for the mural.

“The color was super important because I wanted the image to be upbeat and fun and really fit with what Denver is today. It represents a timeline of past, present and future. It was inspired by Long Life Noodles,” Lor explained. “I wanted people to move their eyes with the image as well. Then we have the silhouettes representing ancestors who have been here before, those who will be here in the future, and those who are here now.”

The phrase on the left side of the mural is something Lor said she wants the entire community to take to heart.

“Don’t be afraid to keep moving. Are you afraid to stop,” she said.

Before sketching her first draft, Lor turned to the books to learn as much as she could about Denver’s Chinatown. That’s when she realized that there wasn’t much information about it that was public knowledge.

“I had to dig a little deeper and look at articles, read through, take notes. Then, after all that research, I could sit down and start sketching,” Lor said.

With so much visual interest in the piece, she hopes it will encourage passersby to engage with the story behind the mural and Denver’s Chinatown.

“I want them to ask why. why is it here What is it? Who was it? And what’s the message behind it?” said Lor.

This will be the first mural to be created by CAPU, and they said they have plans in the works for other downtown art projects and historical markers.

“We understand that the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities have so many different cultures and so many different languages ​​under one roof. We definitely want to continue this work beyond Chinatown. We want to make sure we include people from different backgrounds and do this important work,” Ha said.

Lor said the mural should be finished sometime in May, weather permitting.

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The succession

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