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Sleeping Giant artwork features local and Colorado artists

Three local artists Jill Bergman, Jennifer Baker and Sandi Poltorak collaborated to create a 46-foot mural for one of the walls in the new Sleeping Giant School. (Courtesy photo)

When the doors of the new Sleeping Giant School open next week, students and teachers will be greeted with a variety of new artwork by both local and Colorado artists. A triptych, a set of sculptures and a large-scale mural created by three different artists all adorn the hallways of the new school.

Denver design firm, NINE dot ARTS, was hired to curate art for the school.

“We wanted art that would connect with Steamboat and reflect the area and its history and environment,” said Superintendent Brad Meeks. “It was important to feature local artists as well as artists who could acknowledge and pay respect to our area.”



A series of three prints created by Colorado artist Ashley Stiles features Native American imagery. While Stiles is not of the Ute tribe herself, she does have Native American heritage, and Meeks noted she did a lot of research to accurately represent this aspect of Steamboat’s heritage. Her work is meticulously hand painted and includes some additions of collaged paper to add texture in parts.

A second Colorado artist Joe Norman, who is based in Loveland, created a series of three sculptures that depict either a child or a Sandhill crane, depending on how the sculpture is viewed.

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“From one direction, the sculpture looks like three cranes, and when you rotate it 90 degrees, it looks like three children,” Norman explained. “I wanted to create a piece that reflected both children, for the school, and Sandhill cranes, since the school is built near one of their nesting sites.”

The firm also sent out a request for proposals, or RFP, to local artists with the intent of creating a mural on one of the school’s walls. Three Pine Moon Gallery artists — Jennifer Baker, Jill Bergman and Sandi Poltorak — teamed up to submit an idea. It took many brainstorming sessions discussing how to make their three different mediums work together – Baker works with glass, Bergman is a painter and Poltorak draws in pencil and charcoal – but eventually they were commissioned to create a 46-foot mural for a large hallway space.

The mural at the new Sleeping Giant School incorporates scenes from the Yampa Valley, including landscape and native species, created with the preferred medium of artists Jill Bergman, Jennifer Baker and Sandi Poltorak. (Courtesy photo)

The RFP called for specific elements within the mural such as a depiction of Sleeping Giant, the mountain peak for which the school is named, as well as a representation of the Ute tribe. And while originally the three artists submitted a proposal for a 6-foot space, the end result was 46-foot piece of artwork incorporating from each artist.

“Going from 6 feet to 46 feet was a larger project, but we all felt strongly about doing it for the school and for the kids,” Baker said. “It was something that was really cool to be a part of. We all had great ideas, and it was a true collaboration.”

Bergman, who created the “Yampa is Wild” mural in downtown Steamboat Springs, began the process with a landscape painting she drew and painted on panels of polytab, which were then hung on the wall like wallpaper. Encouraged to think about the history of the area and the Ute tribe, Bergman incorporated bison and other wildlife into the summer landscape scene that also features Sleeping Giant.

For her portion, Poltorak did four black-and-white pencil drawings, framed in glass, which fit on top of the mural. Baker then added 200 glass pieces of wildflowers and animals to the mural to finalize the three-dimensional work.

“Already the building does a beautiful job of pulling the outside in,” Bergman said. “There are elements of nature inside and the mural really ties that together. Being inside a building all day long can be tiring but being able to reel the outside within the building is relaxing. It resets you and lets you be open to learning new things.”

Baker said that while she hopes that the mural will inspire students, equally important is that they recognize the concept of teamwork that went in to creating the artwork.

“This mural came together by three completely different artists, and out of respect, cooperation and teamwork, we were able to put all our creative ideas together to create the mural,” Baker said.

The three knew from the start they wanted to be involved in what they called a “historic project.”

“The new school is a huge part of the expansion of Steamboat, and all three of us wanted to be a part of this historic building,” Poltorak said. “I haven’t seen anything like this mural anywhere else — combining glass and drawings on top of a mural … I hope people get inspired. And more than anything, I hope it makes the kids smile.”

The public will have the chance to view the artwork during a grand opening celebration and ribbon-cutting ceremony at 4 p.m. Monday at new Sleeping Giant School, which will serve kindergarten through eighth-grade students on the west side of Steamboat.


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