From the publisher: Project Hope brings public art downtown |

From the publisher: Project Hope brings public art downtown

Our mission at Steamboat Pilot & Today is to connect communities, and we do that in many ways, including informing our audience with relevant news and information, connecting readers to advertisers so we can pay our bills, uniting people via community events or virtual forums and more.

And now I’m thrilled to say our Pilot & Today newspaper boxes have become visible platforms to connect anyone visiting downtown with some of the amazing artists and students who live and work here. Thanks to an initiative called Project Hope, 22 newspaper boxes throughout downtown have been painted in themes of Steamboat Springs, Routt County and messages of hope.

These works of public art are the result of a six-month project involving Pilot & Today, Steamboat Creates, Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide (REPS), Grand Futures, Northwest Colorado Health and local professional and student artists.

As you stroll around the Downtown Creative District, you’ll see boxes painted in a wide variety of themes ranging from skateboards and landscapes to a bright yellow flower walking in the rain surrounded by dark-clothed people holding umbrellas. It’s breathtaking work, and I’m thrilled these newspaper racks have gone from simple distribution devices to points of inspiration for locals and visitors alike who stroll downtown.

The initiative was born from a similar public-art project I had been involved in a decade ago in California. I knew many of our Pilot & Today newspaper racks could use a refresh, so early this year, I approached Kim Keith, executive director of Steamboat Creates, with the idea to collaborate with local artists. My initial thought was to paint the racks with Steamboat themes that represented the community’s landscape, culture and history.

Keith went further and suggested adding a theme of mental hope to the project mission would be especially important amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Celebrating the beauty, culture and history of Steamboat is one thing, but going further and offering visible encouragement to many people in need was a no-brainer. Thus Project HOPE was born.

Keith brought together the local nonprofits, secured funding and connected a half-dozen professional artists to work with local art students. Each of those artists — Cherie Duty, Jason Erwin, Johannah Hildebrand, Keri Searls, Marion Kahn and Tony Urbick — worked with a small group of students, with each rack getting a unique focus. The artists brainstormed ideas and mapped plans to transfer their vision onto the newspaper boxes, whose angles and 360-degree “canvas” add new challenges and opportunities.

Meantime, Pilot & Today Circulation Manager Amanda Sundberg spent countless hours removing newsracks from their spots downtown, stripping them of old windows, paint, graffiti, stickers and gum, then sanding, priming and repairing them. Only then did she truck them to the Depot Art Center, where Steamboat Creates is based, for the artists to get to work.

After each rack was painted, a coat of sealant was applied to help protect the art from the elements and graffiti. Sundberg then installed new plexiglass windows to each rack before returning them to the street for the public to enjoy.

“It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been worth it,” Sundberg said. “There’s a wide variety of themes. There’s a little something for everyone.”

Sundberg had the privilege of seeing each of the racks at their worst when they were being repaired and their best after the artists had finished their work. Her favorites include two that Duty worked on: a box at the Community Center that reminds her of a mash-up of Mount Werner and Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” and one featuring sunflowers at the corner of 11th and Yampa streets.

We’re publishing detailed articles, photos and a map of the project in Explore, and an online component that will live at will include an interactive map with pin drops on each newspaper box, linking to photos and information on the artists. I encourage you to take the time to read about these artists and tour all 22 locations to grasp the totality of their inspiring work.

I’m grateful to everyone involved for helping Pilot & Today transform simple newspaper boxes into public art and seeds of inspiration. It’s nice to know our newspaper boxes now serve dual purposes: informing our readers and inspiring our community.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.