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Murals bring 'Hope' to Colorado school

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DENVER “I’ve never had an audience like this,” laughs Koko Bayer, a Denver-based artist. 

Bayer is outside of Place Bridge Academy, a K-8 Denver Public School. Her audience is a dozen or so elementary kids, watching her every move as she attaches a giant heart bearing the word “Hope” to a brick wall. 

Bayer specializes in wheat pasting, a technique that essentially glues prints to surfaces as a way of getting art into public spaces. 

Bayer gained popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, when she started Project Spread Hope. She has now pasted close to a thousand “Hope” hearts across Colorado. 

“Living in Denver, I see them all over, and once the pandemic set in, we were just trying to, as a family, go out into the outdoors more and just started seeing them around town,” Therese Swain said of Bayer's Hope hearts. Swain teaches at Place Bridge Academy. “As a visual arts teacher I was really drawn to that simple message that we could all really lean into during this pandemic. Bringing that inspiration back to my students was at the forefront of my mind.”

Swain saw Rocky Mountain PBS’ first story on Bayer and reached out via her website. Swain requested four hearts be installed at Place Bridge Academy, where students and staff speak over 50 different languages and come from at least 64 different countries. 

It was a perfect fit. Bayer recently put out a request via her Instagram specifically asking schools, hospitals, shelters and food banks to reach out for free heart installations. 

“I kind of prioritized putting them in places where these people who are really doing the hardest work during this time could have the most benefit from them,” says Bayer. “Anything that I can do to cheer them up a little bit, I’m more than happy to.”

Bayer arrived at Place Bridge Academy with four, six-foot heart prints. Two were installed outside, and two in the cafeteria. Swain shared the experience with two of her elementary-aged classes. 

“I just think seeing it be hung makes it more tangible for them to see how the process really comes to life, and that they could do it as well,” says Swain.

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Swain was so inspired by Project Spread Hope, she had her classes create miniature hearts inspired by Bayer’s project. Each heart in the mural boasts a word like smile, joy, dream, love, and hope, to name a few.

“Things that we want not only children to have, but society as a whole,” says Swain. 

As Bayer heads inside to begin her cafeteria installations, she pauses at the mural and takes it in. 

“That’s a great feeling when a work of art that you’ve created can actually have a positive effect, so it’s been really great,” says Bayer. 

Project Spread Hope installations can be requested here.


Alexis Kikoen is a multimedia journalist with Rocky Mountain PBS. She can be reached at alexiskikoen@rmpbs.org

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