Last week I stood before the Salida City Council to ask for financial help producing an 8’ x 8’ painted mural on The Chivvis and Lovell building at Sackett and F Street in Salida’s recently designated Colorado Creative District. I sought $1500 from the City in the form of an arts grant. As reported, they gave the green light after significant and excellent discussion. This showed an amazing vision from the City, and I want to thank them for their help.
Josh Been was willing to donate significant time and the buildings owner’s Jack and Linda were willing to donate the wall space. We had some Citizen money to buy supplies, Lex Johnson was willing to contribute iron work for mounting aesthetics while Anton was willing to donate money. Moreover, Anton was willing to give Josh and I artistic licence. He didn’t request the shop’s (Salida Bike Company) logo on the art, and expressed indifference to having a bike present if we felt a hiker was more appropriate.*
The financial value? It’s difficult to know. This is significantly larger than even Josh’s biggest current canvases. Even with Josh donating so much time, It would be a costly project. So, I’d hoped the city would help, hence my grant submission looking for assistance. As a member of Salida Mountain Trails, and being familiar with the Siding project, I am aware of the general time frame to create good downtown signage and wayfinding tools on or near railroad property (we’re close! Thanks to Dara McDonald, Mike Harvey and many others). So, in addition to getting a JB original downtown, one of my goals for this project was to create a beautiful tool to help visitors get acquainted with the valley.
In the end, there were legitimate questions about ownership. The city council wisely and collectively wished to ensure their investment was addressed. Josh and I spoke after the City Council meeting and decided that if we could do the project without the city’s help, it would simpler for everyone. I thanked the Mayor for his help, telling him we would no longer be in need of the funds. However, we still plan to move forward with a privately funded and recreationally artsy addition to our hamlet in the next few weeks. Thanks should be given to everyone involved.
Josh’s painting will be visible from Riverfront Park, an area that was littered with garbage before Mike, the Arkansas River Trust, Lowry & Co., and others got busy. As I stand in the park I am reminded of Salida’s past visionaries and how many community minded people there are in town. I am reminded of how many people it takes to make interesting ideas happen on a blank canvas.
I appreciate Mountain Mail Editor Merle Baranczyk’s thoughts in his op-ed today. However, I am curious how he thinks “it will do little to inform or educate visitors who wish to ride area trails…” without seeing the art? Our working sketches are rooted in a wide valley view highligting the valley’s trails and towns.
Additionally, I noted Mr. Baranczyk’s opinion about our thoughtful city council and staff’s priorities in his April 10th Op-ed. It’s easy to confuse misplaced priorities with vision. As I told Council, better signage on the highway is an excellent idea. I am certainly not opposed to it. As our city planner knows, I have many ideas aside from the Sackett Street art. The good news is that creating a giant piece of art can clearly happen without the city’s assistance. Merle, if you’d like to help spearhead and fund creative wayfinding signage on Highway 50, I’d be willing to support your vision.
*How did this project happen? Among other things, my dad was a big part of the parks program in Madison, Wisconsin during the 1960s and 1970s. That city, now much larger is well respected for its bike paths and parks. He said you must look for opportunities to make your town more interesting. He wasn’t an artist, a cyclist or a frisbee player. He was a Veterinarian. But, through his lifelong work, primarily as a Rotarian he learned to look for the pieces of the puzzle that are often necessary to make something beautiful, functional and whenever possible healthy, become a reality. Council as well as city staff understand the often oblique connection between ROI in the arts and how it translates to tourism. However, their real vision was that they quickly understood the opportunity presented by several community members coming together. In short, this would not have happened a year ago, and it might not be possible a year in the future.