High school students display artwork for First Friday Artwalk

The Octopus Project participants each created an octopus arm that represents themselves, their views and their community. The work created by local students will be on display at Beard & Braid.
Courtesy photo

Local artist Missy Borden describes the story of how she become involved with the group You Out Loud as “serendipity.”

She had been finalizing plans to start her first art group for adults when she received a call from You Out Loud founder Suzi Mitchell.

Her idea, Mitchell explained, was an art-based program for high school students. She had heard feedback from youth in the community who felt they didn’t have a voice and were searching for a positive creative outlet.

“I heard a lot of them saying that they were struggling to find a sense of identity within the community — especially after COVID,” said Mitchell.

So she created the group You Out Loud and Borden, who had previously volunteered as an art mentor at the high school, signed on to lead the group’s first project, The Octopus Project.

Now, artwork — including a collection of octopus arms — will be on display beginning Friday at Beard & Braid in the group’s first ever exhibition.

The group, which met each Tuesday, began by watching the Netflix documentary “My Octopus Teacher” in which a relationship develops between a diver and an octopus.

“The message behind it is that you just never know where friendships will come from and that’s exactly what happened within this program,” Mitchell explained.

Each week the group created pieces of art that were reflective of each participant’s personality, something that is important to them or a message that they want to share. Ten of these pieces will be hanging on Beard & Braid’s walls, in addition to the octopus arms made from plaster, cardboard and mixed materials.

High school sophomore Sophia Picking decided to join the group, hoping to connect with people her own age through art — something that she loves.

“This project was not only a way for me to improve my artistic skills and meet new people but also to be open with my feelings in a more intimate setting,” she explained. “I am usually quiet and don’t talk to many people, especially when I’m drawing; this group gave me an opportunity to put myself out there without overthinking it.”

As a group, Picking said, they decided to create individual arms of an octopus rather than creating one whole creature, allowing each person an opportunity to make their own representation and share their own views. For her arm, Picking used tiles and nuts to create a representation of a living creature.

Sunny Winn, a freshman at Steamboat Mountain School, recalled a trip to the basement of the Depot Art Center where the group rummaged around and was able to use a wide variety of supplies they discovered. Winn’s octopus arm focused on a theme of nature and how it is resilient to a changing world.

“I didn’t really know many people in the group before,” said Winn. “But I was able to meet them and connect with them through our love of art and painting and creating. I came away with an understanding that we have the power to create and put our visions to life.”

If you go

What: You Out Loud exhibit of work from The Octopus Project

When: Begins Friday, April 1

Where: Beard & Braid; 116 Ninth Street

New for the Artwalk

• Pine Moon Fine Art’s April show is titled “A Celebration of Color,” which will open during First Friday Artwalk from 5-8 p.m. April 1. Pieces from local artists Joanne Orce, Sandi Poltorak and Abby Jensen celebrate the beginning of spring and explore the ways that color participates in an artist’s expression. This new exhibit will hang in the gallery at 117 Ninth St. throughout the month.

• In conjunction with the Month of Architecture, W Gallery will feature photographs from Karen Desjardin, David Epperson and David Patterson. The photography includes iconic images of architectural subjects from Colorado and throughout the world. The W Gallery is at 115 Ninth St. The show will hang through April.


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