Murals bring magic to Steamboat’s Diagon Alley

From left, Joel Ackerman, Missy Borden and Katie O'Hara team up to paint a mural on Diagon Alley in Steamboat Springs on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The murals are spreading across Steamboat Springs, dripping out of downtown and into Old Town, bringing color and culture to different parts of the city.

Jim Cook, a longtime Steamboat resident, calls Diagon Alley his front yard. He also calls it the highway to Stehley Park. He loves that kids feel comfortable zipping on their bikes, and he knows every car that drives by.

“I thought it would make a more pleasant walk,” said Cook, who has long been involved in the arts community in Steamboat Springs.

As an effort to beautify the alley for all, not just himself, Cook is helping create an art walk. 

The newest installment of the Diagon Alley art walk is right across from his home and nearly complete.

Steamboat artist Missy Borden painted alongside two friends last Sunday, beating the heat to turn a white garage into her vision.

“I love doing, not like florals, but leafy, organic-type artwork,” Borden said. “Also, stripes is a big thing in my stuff that I like to do so I kind of put them together.”

Steamboat Springs artist Missy Borden works on a mural on Diagon Alley in Steamboat Springs on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

She was joined by Katie O’Hara, a Front Range writer, who grew up with Borden in Steamboat. O’Hara and Borden collaborated on the design that, when complete, will include a short story written across the stripes. 

“The overall theme that we wanted with Missy’s art and the poem is having a hopeful and positive vibe and a journey through life, how you can overcome stuff and moving forward,” O’Hara said.

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Borden put a lot of thought into the design, using elements of some of her favorite pieces, making them bigger and changing the colors. The hues are all bright and vibrant, but not abnormally so. They are all earthy tones that one could find in reality, as opposed to an oversaturated, cartoonish version of the world. 

Woven through the leaves and stripes is a path of sorts that endures ups and downs, but has an upward trend.

The path, like O’Hara’s poem, represents life. 

Katie O’Hara, back, and Missy Borden work on a mural on Diagon Alley in Steamboat Springs on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

“It’s like this trail that will follow from the beginning of the poem/short story and kind of carry you through it,” Borden said.

The pair, who only somewhat recently reconnected, collaborated on the overall idea, envisioning it as a somewhat interactive piece.

“Like where there’s wings on walls, but we didn’t want to do that because it’s overdone and not Missy’s style,” O’Hara said. “But, people can theoretically stand (in between the two garage doors) and have the poem written around them and the mural around them too.”

Diagon Alley in Steamboat Springs is slowly turning into an art walk thanks to the leadership of longtime Steamboat resident Jim Cook. Local artists were working on the most recent mural on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

It’s a visual representation of people being in the middle of their journey or life. 

The artists were joined by another friend they grew up with in Joel Ackerman. He was there to help execute his friends’ vision by assisting on the high stakes paint by number under Borden’s guidance.

Already, a few other murals exist on the alley, including one done by a group of 9-year-olds adjacent to Larimer next to a flier box with information explaining Cook’s vision. He hopes to have plaques by each work with the artist’s information.

“I’ve always been interested in expanding space in the alleys,” Cook said. “We’re going to run out of downtown, so we need to increase the space this way.”

If anyone wants to get involved, they can contact Cook at

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