To help commemorate Illegal Pete's 25th Anniversary in 2020, Founder and President Pete Turner saw both the need to improve and enhance each of its restaurants, and the opportunity to partner with a variety of local artists to meet those needs. The pandemic delayed everyone’s plans, and that was no different for Illegal Pete’s, but heading into more hopeful days of early 2021 it seemed exceedingly important to integrate more art into our world.
RE:FRESH is Illegal Pete’s year-(plus)-long art project that will address business improvements through artistic collaboration. Pete has partnered with local arts producer Annie Geimer (Understudy and Meow Wolf) to assemble a team of artists that will solve each restaurant’s identified business upgrade. To quote Pete, “If we planned on making these ongoing improvements to help our business anyways, lets include creatives to make it more interesting and have some fun.”
This focus on support and connection is born from Pete Turner Sr’s family legacy in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, supporting then-unknown artist Grant Wood and his family during his early career. Grant lived and painted in Turner Mortuary’s carriage house: it was here where Wood painted American Gothic, bringing him immediate national and international acclaim. This legacy cemented in Pete Jr his fiercely-held values around supporting the arts through business, which is foundational to Illegal Pete’s.
Believing art to be one of the key things to have both immediate and lasting impact in our communities, Illegal Pete’s continues the tradition of nurturing and supporting creative endeavors. This attitude has led to partnerships with Youth on Record, Pop Culture Classroom, High Plains Comedy Festival and DUSK Music Festival in Tucson, Arizona. RE:FRESH celebrates 25-years of creative collaboration by bringing it home to each of its restaurants.
Follow along as we spotlight each project and artist throughout the RE:FRESH journey.
We hope you enjoy!
Meet The Artists
DU - May 2020
This art installation was intended to launch the whole RE:FRESH project, but the full execution was halted by the pandemic. It involved a special collaboration with suicide prevention advocacy nonprofit, Hope For The Day, whose tagline is "It's OK not to be OK.” This message continues to share abright, hopeful, and supportive message during an uncertain time. It launched at our DU location during Mental Health Awareness Month.
Park Hill - May 2021
Our Park Hill mural continues the La Loteria card mural tradition—which began the year after Pete Sr. lost his battle with cancer. The mural explores our new brand colors, icons, and type while honoring the longstanding motif. It provides a pathway through which diners are welcome to enjoy themselves without a formal introduction. What's for the experienced, is for the newcomer alike, and when one is ready, there's always more to explore.
DU - June 2021
The space behind restaurants and in alleys can often feel dark and unwelcoming. With staff using this space at our DU location during their breaks, and guests parking behind the restaurant, we wanted to make the area bright and inviting. As an extension of Olive Moya’s previous hope-filled mural, this art project brings colorful, well-lit messages like "We're Glad You're Here" and "Stay With Us.” It was meant to illuminate the shadows, both literally and figuratively.
Jay Bellicchi - September 2021
Our first location, opened right off CU campus on August 15, 1995, utilized as our only promo a crime-scene stylized photo of a lion about to go in on a gazelle with the original censor bar Illegal Pete’s logo over its eyes. The blown-up, black-and-white image was put over the windows as construction finished inside the building, and it left passersby wondering what the f* Illegal Pete's was going to be...a pet store, as folks kept asking what Illegal Pet’s was?
Sandi Calistro - April 2022
I’ve known Sandi for awhile. I feel like Illegal Pete’s and Sandi moved from Boulder to Denver at the same time… Sandi is one of the first folks I recall having beers with at the old Illegal Pete’s Sugar Building bar back in the day. Sandi is one of the key artists that define Denver’s style, in my view, and has done that on a parallel path with the city as it has blown up artistically over the last decade. Super stoked to see her success and influence throughout Denver. So grateful to be able to work with Sandi, finally.