THE ARTIST: Austin Zucchini Fowler (attd. 2007–11)
Austin Zucchini Fowler created some of the most visible tributes to those fighting the coronavirus pandemic. The artist and DU Hilltoppers swim coach spray-painted a series of large-scale murals on building walls throughout downtown Denver featuring teachers, health care workers, first responders and others on the front lines.
“The first responder piece is particularly meaningful to me because my oldest brother is not only a doctor, but he’s also in the U.S. Army,” says Fowler, who took classes at DU’s School of Art and Art History. “The piece represents some of the cool stuff that he’s done over the past couple of years.”
Fowler created his first mural — a nurse with wings and boxing gloves — in April on a blank wall on East Colfax Avenue. The response took him by surprise.
“I was getting the most incredible emails from health care workers,” he says. “The coolest thing they were giving me feedback on was that it boosted morale in the hospital. It was something to talk about, something to visit. A lot of them would go and take pictures in front of it — and they felt empowered. They were so grateful for the message.”
Encouraged by the feedback — and the business owners who began reaching out and asking him to create similar artwork on their walls — Fowler decided to create a series of murals to express the gratitude of an entire city.
“I love the community aspect of public work. I wanted the thank you and gratitude not just to come from me, but from the community,” he says. “I’m not the only one who is feeling grateful right now. It was cool to send a message that a lot of people are feeling and represent the community as a whole in that way.”