Solidarity Mobile Mural Project features local Black artists

First seen in the Colorado Springs Indy

Ten new murals are on display throughout downtown Colorado Springs, Old Colorado City and Manitou Springs this month to celebrate local Black artists. The Solidarity Mobile Mural Project is part of a partnership between the Springs-based My Black Colorado magazine and the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region in honor of Arts Month.

The murals are displayed in local businesses and vacant storefronts along the Colorado Avenue Creative Circuit, “turning a negative – empty windows that dissuade visitors – into a positive, with inviting, vibrant works of art,” according to a news release.

The artists created the original art in a wide range of mediums from sculpture and digital illustration to charcoal and acrylics. All of the art was then printed on special adhesive paper by Creative Consortium. The murals are mobile in nature and will be relocated next month. The new locations have yet to be announced. Copies of the art are available for locals to purchase.

The art raises the question of access, according to the news release. “Whose artwork can we see in galleries, in museums or in public places? Who has access? Why or why not?”

The project’s supporters include the Bee Vradenburg Foundation, Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region, Downtown Development Authority, Manitou Art Center, Manitou Springs Urban Renewal Authority/City of Manitou Springs and the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center & Office of Economic Development.

To listen to the artists describe their work in their own words and find the locations visit creativecircuit.org

The Indy caught up with Claire Swinford, Colorado Springs’ Downtown Partnership director of urban engagement about the project. 

What inspired this project?

The Solidarity Mobile Mural Project addresses the role of art in making public places more welcoming for all. Manitou, Downtown and Old Colorado City are unique in the Pikes Peak region as pedestrian-oriented environments, and that tends to make them gathering places for people from all over the region. This is a good thing, but we know the appearance of a public space can radically affect how people use that space. If a street has lots of papered-over windows and looks empty, it feels less safe and welcoming. By contrast, if a street looks like people care about it — art, lights, open shops — people tend to feel better in the space and interact more positively. This effect is even more pronounced for people of color, who can feel unsafe and unseen in public places. That’s why we chose the word “solidarity” to express our aspirations for this project. We’re addressing some of the key social currents of 2020 —the rising volume of calls for racial justice, the use of public space as a forum to advocate change, and the challenges facing small business — and showing how we all can be part of the solution by making public space a venue where Black voices are actively celebrated as a force for good in our community.

What is the future of this project or next steps?

Because this project is mobile, you’ll continue to see these works of art popping up in new places around the region. They’ll stay in their current locations for at least a month before moving on. Some of them will stay longer. Depending on demand and funding, we hope to be able to do additional editions of this project featuring new work. We also have a few partner community organizations that can host the murals on a more long-term basis, in places where they can inspire youth of color in our community every day. Ultimately, though, these murals are made of temporary materials — the artists gave us digital files, not the original works — so they can be recycled once they’re no longer fit for display.

Why is this project unique?

I hope this project isn’t unique, but I do hope it prompts a shift in perspective. People have asked why this project is exclusively for Black artists, and I think there’s a key misconception there that needs to be addressed. Everyone has a role to play in the Solidarity Mobile Mural Project, whether you’re making the work, looking at it, talking about it or sharing it with others. An important part of being an artist is having your work seen and appreciated by others, and an important part of being a human in society is experiencing art and allowing yourself to be changed by it. We’re lucky to have so many talented Black creatives in the Pikes Peak Region, and what I love about these murals is how they combine an approachable format — you’re literally eye-to-eye with them — with some really profound reflections on the nature of beauty and self-worth, the importance of family, what it’s like to grow up Black in America, and what these artists hope our community’s future holds. Meanwhile, the simple presence of these murals also raises questions of access: Whose artwork can we see in galleries, in museums or in public places? Who has access? Why or why not? This project is not exclusive because we are all participants in answering, or failing to answer, those questions.

See the murals and their locations below: