Art imitates life at Granby Street Art Festival

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Early last week, many Granby residents were shocked as the skeletons of murals began appearing on buildings throughout Main Street.  More than a few concerned citizens took to Facebook to voice their concerns about the “graffiti” that had seemingly appeared out of nowhere.  But these various complaints melted away with the early morning snow on Saturday, June 22, as the sun peaked out from behind the clouds to shed light on Rky Mtn Walls, Granby’s first ever Street Art Festival.  Energy and excitement were high as locals and visitors alike wandered the streets of Granby, taking in eight new, larger-than-life murals and chatting with the artists as these new masterpieces were completed.

Not even the uncharacteristic summer snow could dampen the energy of the day.  “There were times when I had to wipe the surfaces down before I could paint. It was a lot of ‘wipe/paint, wipe/paint,” said Jon Stommel, who traveled all the way from Portland, Oregon with Travis Czekalski to take part in the event. “We’re from the Northwest, so we’re used to weather like this.”

“Normally we work in places like tunnels, in the city, so it’s nice to be outside. I’m loving the clean air,” said street artist Esic, as he completed his work on the side the Grand County Board of Realtors building. The theme of his piece was apropos to the weather in which he labored: the seasons in transition.

While to some this event felt like a spontaneous happening, the groundwork for the Rky Mtn Walls, the first street art festival ever held in Grand County, began nearly a year ago. Planning started in the summer of 2018, shortly after the Town of Granby partnered with Pat Milbery, Pat McKinney, and Josh Deitchman, of the Denver-based So-Gnar Creative Division, to bring three murals to Main Street Granby, including the “Adventure Awaits” mural on the retaining wall by Granby’s EMS station.  Milbery and McKinney returned in mid-June of 2019, with a variable army of sixteen artists and twelve Americorp volunteers, to transform Granby in a most bright and unanticipated manner.  The collective mission of the event was to bring the thriving scene of urban street art to towns in the Colorado Mountains.

  “Why have murals in Granby? Why NOT?” exclaimed Milbery, as he took a break alongside Thomas “Detour” Evans beneath the towering mural that now graces the side of the Shear Design building.  “Granby is a beautiful place.  It has great canvases.  And it’s unexpected. So why not in Granby?”  Milbery went on to say his team of artists have felt welcomed by the community, the vast majority of whom voiced appreciation and support for the project.  “It’s been a labor of love,” Milbery added, further explaining that the wall he’d been working on required approximately twelve hours of cleaning and maintenance before the painting could even begin.

Artist Pat Milbery and Detour303
Artist Pat Milbery and Detour303

The expertly-crafted murals that now pepper Granby encompass a variety of subject matter.  A menacing dragon aptly slithers along 4th street at the new home of The Pearl Dragon restaurant.  A saintly visage beams on the East wall of LA Eatery.  A personified mountain sunset smiles at passing traffic from the Sky-Hi News annex building.  Anthropomorphic cave-dwellers look down on the Fraser River from the back of the Granby Visitors Center.  Adding a local feel to the festivities, Mike Graves of Denver came to the land of his ancestors to paint Doc’s Place, a tribute to his great-grandfather Linus Oliver “Doc” Graves, who founded Hideaway Park in 1932, which later became Winter Park.  Truly, art is alive on Main Street Granby like never before.

Experience the results of Granby’s first Street Art Festival for yourself.  Maps to the various murals are available at the Granby Visitor’s Center, or wander the town and discover these breathtaking works of art for yourself.  For more information, visit RkyMtnWalls.com or call the Granby Chamber at 970-531-2336.

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