Taking art to the streets

When it comes to public art, Laramie is kicking ass. I’m biased, of course.  But, oh! There’s so much happening here. In just two years, murals have produced an invigorating downtown backdrop.

The Laramie Mural Project is part of “Sculpture: A Wyoming Invitational,” started in 2008.  The project is a collaborative venture between the University of Wyoming Art Museum and Laramie Main Street Alliance.  The group is dedicated to a vibrant downtown area.  Museum curator Susan Moldenhauer says moving art into the public realm strengthens the cultural identity of the community.

Building owners walk the downtown, noting places they feel a mural would enhance the surroundings.  Survey data is compiled and prioritized, then merchants pair up with local artists to brainstorm ideas about what and where.  The results are stunning … and conceptually exciting, too.

Local artists have produced three murals to date; four more are in the works for this year. I saw the first two during a site visit to Laramie last August.

Talal Cockar_Tierra y LibertadMeghan Meier_Grainery Grove

Talal Cockar’s work Tierra y Libertad is a tribute to the land and the people who who work it. Grainery Grove by Meghan Meier, wrapping an alley corner, references the beauty of aspen groves in nearby Medicine Bow mountains.

Yesterday, I stumbled onto Travis Ivey’s Hollyhock Haven which speaks to natural history of the modern West and the impacts of development on the landscape.  It’s said to attract yes and butterflies.

Travis Ivey_Hollyhock Haven

The murals have brought life to tattered alleys, parking lots and otherwise drab backsides of buildings. Surely, their impressive visibility cements people to the everyday life of their community.  And satisfying respite from virtual reality?

In his book of essays, Going Public, media critic and philosopher Boris Groys asserts that technology and social media have coalesced to produce an omnipresent spectacle of digitized art. How then, he asks, can artists survive this popular success of contemporary art … a world in which everyone can, after all, become an artist?”

It would seem that Laramie’s answer to this question might be: “Take art to the streets!”