Citizens lodge support for mural projects at Granby Board meeting
Every chair in the Granby Board chambers was filled Tuesday night, and an overflow crowd stood in the background as dozens of local citizens came out to show their support for Granby’s recently completed mural projects, part of the brand new street local art festival called Rky Mtn Walls.
Earlier this month, Granby Main Street Program, a Granby Chamber of Commerce program promoting Granby’s downtown business district, put on the first ever Rky Mtn Walls. Rky Mtn Walls is a Granby-based art festival focusing on street art. The festival resulted in the creation of eight unique murals on multiple buildings throughout Granby’s downtown business corridor.
Work on the murals kicked off roughly two weeks ago as local buildings underwent preparation work for the artwork. The artists began working on the projects last Wednesday, June 19. Work continued throughout the week and weekend as most of the artists added finishing touches.
On Monday, rumors began spreading on social media that town officials were unhappy with the murals and were planning to paint over the artwork. The resulting online debate led to a call for all citizens, who were interested in the discussion surrounding the murals, to appear at Tuesday night’s regularly scheduled Granby Board meeting to voice their opinions.
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The subject of Granby’s murals and the recent art festival was not a formal agenda item on Tuesday night, however meeting attendees were able to address the board regarding the topic during the public comment period at the beginning of the meeting.
During the course of the meeting 17 individuals provided comments to the board regarding the topic. Of those 17 individuals, the majority, 12, voiced their support for the murals. Local citizen Liz McIntyre spoke eloquently about the controversies of art in history, rhetorically questioning why the statue of David was naked and asking what would have happened if the Pope demanded Michelangelo repaint the Sistine Chapel.
“Art is often meant to be provocative,” McIntyre said as she spoke in support of the murals. “I know there have been complaints, that it doesn’t fit with our mountain town, Western town, resort town. For me, I think it expands the space in Granby and allows room for those who want to be creative. Granby doesn’t have to be any one thing. I think the murals suggest Granby can be anything we imagine it to be.”
Three local citizens voiced displeasure with the murals. Some expressed their belief that the murals did not fit in with Granby’s traditional rustic Western themes. They also voiced complaints about the process by which the mural designs were developed — which did not include an opportunity for the public or property owners to review the murals designs prior to their creation.
Local Hopper Becker said he did not particularly care for the murals but stressed his appreciation for the creativity and artistry that went into their creation. Becker’s comments stressed the importance of local citizens respecting the property rights of any property owners who might seek to paint over the murals. He also decried a lack of civility that developed around the issue.
“I want to apologize for the amount of angry vitriol towards all of you,” Becker said, speaking to the board in reference to the heated rhetoric that on social media. “I hope we as a community can be a little more civil and get facts straight before we decide to pull each other into the streets.”
Two individuals also spoke during the meeting whose comments were neutral on the murals themselves. One woman voiced concerns that local artists were not included amongst those who did the work. Vanessa Benjamin-Rus, a local citizen advocate for mental health issues, expressed her displeasure that the topic of street art was removing focus from more pressing issues such as mental health.
“I am talking about priorities,” Benjamin-Rus said. “When murals are being bickered about when there are serious issues in this community, that is sad. There are serious problems going on and this isn’t going to help.”
A rundown of local property and business owners upon whose buildings the murals were painted reveals there are no plans in place to remove or repaint any of the pieces. Granby Mayor Paul Chavostie, who owns one of the buildings that received a mural, said he was not planning to repaint his property.
“I think the artwork is absolutely beautiful,” Chavousite said, before raising some complaints about the process. “But the Main Street organization should have had a process or held workshops where all public and local artist would have been included to add input and feedback.”
Chavousite said, on a personal level, the murals on Shear Design and LA Eatery were his favorites from the festival, and the pieces he felt were more psychedelic in nature were his least favorite works.
Sky-Hi News publisher Emma Trainor said the paper has no plans to repaint the mural on the apartments directly east of the paper’s office.
Representatives from Pearl Dragon also expressed their happiness with the mural on their building and said they had no plans to remove it. Lucas Edward Harville, owner of Lion Head Coffee, stated he “could not be happier” with the mural on his building and said he has no plans to change what was produced. Leonardo Valles, owner of LA Eatery, said the mural on his building would not be changing either.
During Tuesday’s public meeting Debra Brynoff, CEO of Grand County Board of Realtors, told the Granby Board that she believes the art is beautiful. She further confirmed there are no plans to remove the mural on the Board of Realtors’ building. Also voicing her vehement support for the murals Tuesday night was Rose Moeller-Jahn, owner of the property where Shear Designs and Spirits-N-Things is located, where two of the festival’s murals were produced. Moeller-Jahn is not planning to change the two murals on her property.
For her part, Granby Chamber Director Jessica Blair seemed taken aback by the furor that developed on social media over the murals.
“When we started off to do this, our only goal was to bring something unique to our town,” she said.
Blair sought to rebut some of the criticism that was leveled against Rky Mtn Walls regarding the process that went into deterring the murals and the funds used to pay for the festival. According to Blair, all but $5,000 of the $50,000 that went into making Rky Mtn Walls was derived from sponsorships and grants. Blair said the town of Granby had previously provided the Granby Main Street program with $5,000 to be applied to street art, all of which was applied to Rky Mtn Walls.
Blair also noted that the artists who performed the work at Rky Mtn Walls were paid $2,500 each; far below market rates for the work they performed. Blair noted more control over the artistic work of the artists who participated in Rky Mtn Walls would inherently require paying a higher fee for the specifically commissioned art.
“We wanted them (the artists) to have a creative part of this,” Blair said. “We wanted it tailored, but not micromanaged.”
Blair said she does not know exactly what the future holds for Rky Mtn Walls but was optimistic about its viability for years to come.
“I don’t think this is the last you will see of Rky Mtn Walls,” she said. Granby’s board took no formal action regarding the topic of Granby’s murals but did set the issue as a formal agenda item to be discussed during their next public meeting in early July.
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