Alleys become art: Murals to revitalize forgotten spaces
Steamboat Springs — An uncomfortable zone filled with unfinished business and dark corners, alleys, in most cities, are best avoided. But the Steamboat Springs Arts Council and a select group of juried artists are ready to reshape that space and fill it with art — big art on big spaces, art that celebrates the “sense of place that makes Steamboat unique,” according to Steamboat Arts Council Executive Director Kim Keith.
As part of its second year in the leadership role of the annual All Arts Festival, Aug. 18 to 21, the Arts Council is sponsoring a mural project, which, when completed, will see the installation of five original works of art on privately-owned buildings in the alleys between Yampa Street and Lincoln Avenue in downtown Steamboat.
The first mural, by Denver-based muralist Bobby MaGee Lopez, will be created on the Steamboat Meat and Seafood Company building on Yampa Street and is expected to be completed this weekend.
The mural is a depiction of a deer that “contains an immense amount of coloring and patterning that extends all the way from the ground to the tip-top of the building. It is big and beautiful and very bold, in both color and scope,” Keith explained. “It is a very simple painting, but the addition of repetitive patterning adds to the complexity of its simple design.”
MaGee Lopez, who began his journey as an artist on a much smaller scale as a calligrapher, explains that his art is unique in that “calligraphy informs my style. Line width and weight and very fluid strokes are important in how I paint,” he said.
MaGee Lopez likens his art to a melding of fine art and street art, employing vibrant colors and patterns. Of Navajo heritage, he said his art “ties back to the land” and he has a passion for native cultures.” He attributes the Hawaiian Kahuna, Ute and Australian Aboriginal cultures as influences in his designs.
MaGee Lopez has painted murals across the country, but it is his work in the 40West Arts District and RiNo (River North) Arts District in Denver that grabbed Keith’s attention.
“I asked the 40West and RiNo districts who their favorite muralists were,” Keith said. “I had been looking for the vibrancy that has been added to those districts, and I asked them for their recommendations.”
Sponsored by members of Mainstreet Steamboat, City Planning, the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, the Downtown Public Art Fund, the Steamboat Chamber Resort Association and downtown business owners, the installation of public art murals is designed to “visually invigorate Steamboat’s Downtown Creative District in a thoughtful, artistic, and compelling way,” Keith said.
“By identifying buildings in the downtown area that are in need of color and are a good fit for a mural treatment, the project will help enhance downtown vitality with original mural art that celebrates our community,” Keith said.
Artists are invited from both the local community and throughout the nation to submit an idea.
“The concept is pretty open. We want to celebrate that unique sense of place that makes us Steamboat: flora, fauna, or our Western heritage,” Keith added. “It’s open to artists’ interpretation. Creativity and imagination are central themes.”
Steamboat Meat and Seafood Company owner Bill Hamil served on the committee to select the art that MaGee Lopez will be painting on his Yampa Street location, beginning with a giant hosing down and white-wash of the exterior wall on which the mural will be painted.
“I liked the animal. I liked the color scheme,” Hamil explained. “What better place for a mural than this building?”
To celebrate the completion of the mural, Hamil is serving his signature homemade smoked sausages and meats free to the public from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20 and Sunday, Aug. 21.
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