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Denver Winery, Now-Famous Mural Artist Pair Up To Say Thanks To Colorado Heroes

DENVER (CBS4) - Artist Austin Zucchini-Fowler completed his third mural Wednesday in what has become a series honoring those on the front lines because of coronavirus. The location of his latest piece of art is Bigbsy's Folly Craft Winery, which has partnered with him to share his images on their wine in a way that shows appreciation to those workers and helps him continue his craft.

Austin Zucchini-Fowler's mural (4)
(credit: CBS)

"The reception is so positive of the first piece and it really inspired me to do other works," he told CBS4. "The wings is really trying to highlight the individual, I think that there is that connotations to angels but also heroes."

The latest mural is a tribute to teachers. He started and finished it during Teacher Appreciation Week. Similar to the previous two that were health care workers, he has placed each figure with wings. While the murals are not based off of an actual person, Zucchini-Fowler said it was important for him to be inclusive with each piece.

"I really just want to display these individuals in a really beautiful and great way," he said while finishing up the mural outside Bigsby's Folly's back fence. "I'm really trying to rotate different looks, different genders, to really encompass our full community."

mural (1)
(credit: CBS)

Co-owner Marla Yetka and her husband founded Bigsby's Folly three years ago. He lost his job, so they decided to sell their home, take their student out of private school and follow their passion. The business was enjoying a strong start before the COVID-19 pandemic. It was an adjustment to turn a tasting room built on wine experiences into a carryout service.

"Like everyone, we scrambled," she said. "It was 24 hours notice and we had to completely rethink our business."

Thanks to a post by CBS4's Kelly Werthmann on Instagram, Yetka saw the first mural by Zucchini-Fowler. She decided to place the image on a pint of wine, which she could give out for free to health care workers as a way of saying thanks to them. With the artist's approval, she started selling his prints to help him donate free versions to local hospitals. Bigsby's Folly also started selling wine with the images, with half of the sales going back to Zucchini-Fowler.

"Austin's work captures the positive piece in that," Yetka said. "I hope we can keep it going for as long as people are interested."

mural (2)
(credit: CBS)

The first mural resembling a nurse located near the intersection of Colfax and Williams received global recognition. Media outlets abroad interviewed him and others shared the image across the country. He completed another mural near the intersection of 35th and Larimer Street. Wednesday was also National Nurses Day, so the image was set to be shared digitally on around 3,000 billboards across the country.

"It's been absolutely incredible the reach that these pieces have made," Zucchini-Fowler said. "The amount of eyes that have seen this image is truly astonishing to me and I really did not envision that it would develop in the way that it has."

The latest mural is a fun challenge for the artist as he navigated corrugated metal on the Bigsby's Folly property. The material forms waves that make for a unique canvas as he completed his spray paint and paintbrush creation. The partnership between artist and winery continues to grow as the number of free pints passes 3,000 and bottles sold is above 500. Health care workers can still come by to receive a free pint, they just need to show identification. Teachers can receive the same gift as the new mural is finished by providing their ID as well.

"Even when we're open there's a lot of people out there that we need to thank for getting us through this time," Yetka said. "Wine, art, they're things that bring people together."

mural (3)
(credit: CBS)

The business has benefited from the pairing, one that Yekta says makes sense because wine is a liquid art. Not only is it a way to give back and show appreciation, it has helped her business stay afloat and supports a local artist. She enjoys spending more time interacting with customers now that it is just her and her husband. The winery had to layoff staff after the outbreak but plans to use savings for the business to bring them back. The winery was about to sign a lease for a second location before the stay-at-home order, money they will now use for their employees.

"I see a lot of creativity that is coming out of this," Zucchini-Fowler said. "A lot of businesses are having to reshape how they operate and I think some of this will carry over in a positive way when we can kind of get back into normalcy."


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