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DENVER (KDVR) — Alicia Cardenas is being remembered as a leader in Denver’s art community.

“I can’t believe she’s gone,” Sara King told FOX31. 

On Monday, Cardenas was shot and killed near 1st and Broadway outside Sol Tribe, the tattoo shop she owns.

“Knowing how it happened in her own business it’s — there’s no words,” King said. 

King said she first met Cardenas in 2016 when she walked into Sol Tribe to get her first tattoo. Since then, Cardenas went on to teach King about running a tattoo shop and the two became friends.

“I’m so grateful I got tattooed by her and she’ll always be with me. She always has been. But now it’s way more meaningful,” she said. 

King says Cardenas fought to legitimize the tattoo business and even helped craft state laws and standards surrounding it.

According to her website, she had been an instructor with the National Safety Council since 1999 teaching classes on blood-borne pathogens to aspiring tattoo artists and piercers. She also served on the board of directors for the Association of Professional Piercers, a position she called “one of her proudest achievements.”

Outside of being a tattoo artist, Cardenas was a muralist. 

“Art is beautiful. Art is everywhere. It makes life meaningful. But when that person that’s making that art is like Alicia, it’s so much more powerful,” King said.

One of her most prominent works is a mural at 27th and Larimer Street that Cardenas painted during the Crush Walls 2020 event. She has commissioned works at 8th and Federal, Simms and Colfax and several other locations across the Denver metro area. 

“Her art deserves to live on because she showed imagery through indigenous populations and how powerful that is, how we need to give attention to that. She was an advocate for that,” King said.

King said Cardenas also had a passion for working with children and teaching them art. 

In 2021, she worked with Babe Walls and the City of Arvada to create a wall of 19 mini-murals painted by children. The wall is located on the recreation path near Ralston Road and Lamar Street. 

“She was a staple of Denver. Not only was she talented but she held so many people up. She was a big mom to so many. She helped me,” King said.

Aside from her work, Cardenas leaves behind a 12-year-old daughter.

You can find more about Alicia’s mural and others here.