Local artist memorializes adventurous mutts in mural | SkyHiNews.com

Local artist memorializes adventurous mutts in mural

When Echo Zoyiopoulos isn’t teaching art classes at Middle Park High School, she loves Nordic skiing in Grand County’s backcountry with her black lab Quigley.

So when it came time to customize her eight-foot square canvas for Fraser’s first Mountain Mural Festival, Zoyiopoulos drew inspiration from the hours she and Quigley have spent skiing, hiking and exploring.

“It’s inspired by the partnership between people and dogs enjoying the mountains,” she said. 

The Fraser Mountain Mural Festival hosted 19 artists, each customizing an eight-foot square canvas July 26-27. Proceeds from the event will go to fundraising efforts for Fraser’s proposed Center for Creative Arts.

Artists were given four themes that celebrate the Fraser Valley to inspire them, including local preservation, local history, outdoor life and transportation.

Zoyiopoulos, who lives in Tabernash, has been teaching art classes at the high school for eight years, but her days as an artist go back to her childhood when she would paint and draw with her father.

Typically, her preferred mediums are watercolor or ceramics, so working in acrylics for the mural festival presented a creative challenge for Zoyiopoulos.

“This is way different from my typical medium so it’s kind of experimental and … trying new things,” she said. 

However, the content of Zoyiopoulos’ mural falls well within her wheelhouse. She enjoys painting landscapes, both real and imaginary, as well as incorporating geometric patterns. Her canvas features local callouts to Perry’s Peak and the national forests that cover Grand County.

“I hope they get an appreciation for where we live and the opportunities we have to enjoy the outdoors with our best friends, whether human or canine,” Zoyiopoulos said.

As Zoyiopoulos painted Saturday, she received a visit from one of the models in her piece, Juniper, a Bernese mountain dog, and Juniper’s owner MJ. MJ, who is used to her dogs getting a lot of attention, said she enjoys Zoyiopoulos’ mural because it embraces the part dogs play in the local lifestyle.

Zoyiopoulos also painted her lab and her mural festival partner Michelle Mitchell’s dog Chico. As one of five local artists participating, Zoyiopoulos was grateful to the town for being a place that remains supportive of the arts.

“It’s great to be in a place where it feels like my work appreciated,” she said. 

Throughout the day Saturday, passersby stopped at Zoyiopoulos’ station commenting on the vibrant colors, the cute dogs and snapping pictures.

Eric Vandernail, one of the festival organizers, said they wanted to make sure the festival reflected Fraser and felt including local artists was key to that. 

“They provide the culture of Fraser and the valley,” Vandernail said. “Plus, people like to see locals succeed and we support local art, so I love the mix.”

The festival culminates in an awards ceremony, where judges Mayor Philip Vandernail and artists Karen Vance and Emanuel Martinez will pick the top three pieces, and a people’s choice award will also be given out. 

Then, later this year, the town plans to host an auction for the murals with the proceeds split equally between the artists and fundraising efforts for the arts center. 

“Art (adds) representation and diversity, it records history, beautifies things, lets us express ourselves and brings people together,” Zoyiopoulos said.

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