Denver StreetHeart encourages people to connect with the city through street art

Mural by Keno Gonzales at 5th Sun Cafe.
Adam Lichty wants Denverites to walk more -- and see a lot more. That's the motivation for Denver Streetheart, which collects street art from around the city and shares photos on Instagram with Lichty's 1,500 followers. But he doesn't want the experience to stop there. He wants people to go out and see the art for themselves. "One of the many goals is to get people to see the work, know where the work is at," he explains. "If they're out and about with a little bit of time, or if they're going from point A to B, it's really easy just to hop on the Instagram channel, look at the map and go, 'Okay, what's around me? Can I diverge my path by a block or two and enjoy some street art?'"

See also: Guerilla Garden founder Jolt on the changing history and perception of street art

Lichty is a Colorado native, and has worked in photography, art direction and social-media management. In 2006, he moved to Chicago and then New York in search of a bigger market as a photographer. This is when his love of all things urban began. "My lifestyle changed a lot going from Denver -- very car-oriented, driving everywhere -- to an environment that's very urban, you walk everywhere, bike, take the trains," he says. "When you do that, you start seeing more of the city around you. Every single alley and sidewalk, you just kind of get to know them. You see little things pop up."

Mural by Cuttyup at Like Minded Productions.
He returned to Denver less than a year ago, determined to find the elements of urban life he loved in his hometown. "I saw that it existed here, maybe not quite to the same level but it was still there. I felt like it was kind of hidden, even. So part of the project came about from wanting, even just for myself, to document it and know that it's there, but also then to start to share it with everyone else," Lichty says.

So he created an Instagram account called Denver Streetheart, where he collects and curates pieces he finds walking around the city. He chose Instagram because of its mapping feature, which allows him to share the exact location of the urban art he photographs. "Hopefully it encourages people to walk more," Lichty says. "I hate seeing these people who will go and hop in their car to go to the store or the bar just like eight blocks down the road."

But inspiring people to roam the streets is not Lichty's only goal: He wants to showcase local street artists and bring more attention to their work. "There's a lot of really talented artists in Denver," he notes. "I don't think that they get enough credit."

One way he's working to change that is by engaging with the Instagram community. He finds people who are already posting photos using tags like #Denver or #streetart; when he sees a piece he recognizes, he tags the artist to give them credit for their work.

Mural by Nice One.
The conversation on local street art has driven a lot of people to his site. "I can find people in the community who have that interest but don't really know too much about it, and just jump in, tell them who the artist is or tell them 'great find.' If it's a piece I don't really know about, I ask them where they found it," he says.

But the conversation doesn't only take place online. It's important for Lichty to interact not only with the works, but with artists and businesses that commission murals. "I won't be shy about, like, banging on a restaurant window, even if they're closed but I see a couple people in there, and say, 'Oh, you've got a beautiful mural on the side of your building, tell me about it. Who's the artist? What made you guys want to put that mural on your building?'" he continues.

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