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Public art collaboration downtown brings hope ahead of holiday season (with interactive map)

Steamboat’s creative district is a little more colorful these days thanks to a collaboration between Steamboat Pilot & Today and Steamboat Creates in which artists and students worked together to design and paint newspaper racks.

The overarching theme was “hope” — something that was decidedly needed over the course of the past year — and the project became known as Project Hope.

Six artists — Cherie Duty, Jason Erwin, Johannah Hildebrand, Keri Searls, Marion Kahn and Tony Urbick — were chosen to work individually with Steamboat students for this public art project. Steamboat Creates began idea generation and brainstorming with members of the teen council, but as artists joined on, several of them recruited their own teams of youth to work with.



Kahn was drawn to the project because she believed it to be a good idea on many levels.

“I loved the idea of kids being involved in a public art project, and I loved the idea of working with them on that,” she said. “The other thing is that I was excited that the Pilot thought this was something that would add to the spirit of the town.”



Urbick jumped at the chance to grow his teaching and collaboration skills with youth — both of which he felt benefitted from the project.

“I was privileged to work with a great group on executing the first two boxes start to finish,” Urbick said. “I blocked out the outlines of the colors on the first two boxes with the teams, and after a couple of quick brushstroke and color-mixing advice sessions, I mostly tried to keep their brush-cleaning water filled and offer support and snacks while getting out of the way.”

Designs ranged from aspens in the winter, green mountains, flowers, downtown scenes and abstract designs. They can be found on the stretch of downtown known as the Creative District, which spans from Third to 13th streets.

Many of the artists came to the project with their own design ideas on hope and then worked with the youth they were paired with to execute the final design.

Merritt Flanigan, a ninth grader at Steamboat Mountain School, found out about Project Hope from a friend and wanted to get in on the action.

“I thought it sounded like a really cool opportunity to contribute to the community in a fun and creative way,” she said.

Working with Urbick and a group of her friends on three boxes, the team collaborated mostly on choosing colors and final designs for their boxes.

“It was an awesome experience to get to be real artists,” Flanigan said. “I feel lucky to have had an opportunity to impact the community in a positive way. It was really special to be able to spread some hope through the community.”

And while the project presented challenges at times — like painting a five-sided object, Kahn mentioned — all participants walked away with a sense of accomplishment and well-being.

“It’s so uplifting, in my mind, to walk by so many great creations,” Urbick said. “It was wonderful to meet many working artists in town who also produced these great boxes and learn from them. Working with the teenagers was a practical reminder that we are all, each of us, artists as we grow up, and that focus, teamwork and fearlessness will deliver a great result even among unlikely collaborators.”


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