Mural mania: Inside Steamboat’s outdoor artwork | SteamboatToday.com

Mural mania: Inside Steamboat’s outdoor artwork

Eugene Buchanan and Annie Martin







Steamboat may not have the street art scene of LA's Sunset Strip, but its multitude of murals paint a different picture. Scattered throughout town, these hidden masterpieces adorn area buildings, bathrooms, alleyways and more, giving passersby a glimpse into artists' styles and Steamboat's support of the arts.

Manning the brush behind most of them is local artist Chula Beauregard, who has pursued a career in mural painting since 1997 and is passionate about the value of public art. "It's been hugely satisfying working with various groups in town and doing my best to represent their vision," she says. "Murals can act as a visual language of our culture and signposts for our town, celebrating what makes our community so special."

Bike Town USA

Location: Steamboat Ski and Bike Kare

Artist: Chula Beauregard

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To see Steamboat's communal passion for biking, look no farther than the 12-foot-by-20-foot mural on the side of Steamboat Ski and Bike Kare downtown. Adorning the store's eastern brick wall since 2011, the painting's $12,000 price tag was funded by grants and community donations, including those from Bike Town USA and Routt County Riders, to show biking as a story through public art and paint it as a vital part of Steamboat living. "We wanted to capture the entirety of Steamboat's biking culture," says Beauregard. "But the more we got into it we realized the variety of biking in Steamboat." The painting depicts everything from downhillers and road riders to cruisers and the Town Challenge mountain bike series. Look in the middle and you'll also find re-painted kids' art of various types of cycling, from unicycles to bike path scenes. "I sifted through drawings from local sixth graders and then re-traced them," she says. The result is a testimony to all Steamboat cyclists and the tight knit community they form.

Steamboat c. 1910

Location: Yampa River Core Trail/Sasak Trailers building

Artist: Chula Beauregard

Arguably the widest mural in Steamboat's quiver, this painting faces the Core Trail by the James Brown Bridge and blends town's Western history with its modern innovation in the arts. Painted on the back of industrial building in 2003/'04 and based on an actual historical representation of the Yampa Valley in 1910, the work was funded by the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corporation. Perhaps most unique is its utilization of the building's hardware — including pipes serving as train smokestacks and wagon doors, and an awning as a cabin — and items like real wagon wheels that lend it a three-dimensional industrial element. "It was a super fun project to think of how to incorporate everything into the painting," says Beauregard. The final product is both visually appealing and educational, and, like the valleys' vibrant history, has withstood the test of time.

Howie

Location: Howelsen Ice Arena

Artist: Chula Beauregard

Nothing says welcome like ice skating polar bears. At least that's what the city's Parks and Recreation Department had in mind when commissioning this 8-foot-by10-foot mural for the Howelsen Ice Arena in 2002. Similar to the biking theme in her Bike Town USA mural, this time Beauregard captures the diversity of town's skating community, depicting scarf-wearing bears doing a variety of skating stunts and hockey moves against the backdrop of Mt. Werner. And there's no need to go on a hunt to find it; it's the first thing you see when entering the arena. "It makes the entrance to the ice arena welcoming," says Ernie Jenkins, who helped spearhead the project. "The public loved watching her paint it." Best of all? It helps all skaters feel warm and fuzzy before hitting the ice.

Our Place, Our Home

Location: Strawberry Park Elementary School

Artist: Chula Beauregard/elementary school students

Beauregard doesn't always work alone. For this mural inside the Strawberry Park Elementary School, Beauregard had students draw and talk about "their place and home," resulting in more than 100 student-drawn sketches. "I took all of them and then tried to put them into a comprehensive design," she says. To do so, she projected them onto a panel and then traced them before they were finally painted in by the students. "All I did was trace them and then clean up the edges a bit after they painted them," she says. The proposal was created by retired librarian Sherry Holland and art teacher Erin Kries and helped the students students be involved in a hands-on, lasting piece of art.

Western Town

Location: Stockbridge Playground

Artist: Chula Beauregard

This mural is far from being child's play. Parents taking children to Stockbridge Playground will be pleased to find this artwork lighting up the playground's false building fronts with its lively colors and Old West theme. Funded by the city's Parks and Recreation department in 2006, the artwork transforms what would otherwise be mundane space into usable art capturing Steamboat's Western spirit. The focal point of a playground that includes jungle gyms, slides, bouncy animals and more, the mural's front side depicts such Western buildings as a saloon, sheriff’s office, bank, general store and town hall while the back is painted to match Steamboat's scenery. "We conceived it to add a personal, hand-made element to the playground," says Ernie Jenkins, who commissioned the project. "It adds a 'Steamboat' element to the manufactured playground equipment."

Respect the Yampa

Location: Backdoor Sports

Artist: Chula Beauregard

This mural was commissioned by Backdoor Sports owner Peter VandeCarr in 1995 to depict the many faces of one of town's greatest natural amenities: the Yampa River. "I had a theme I sort of wanted and she just ran with it," he says, adding that the painting is front and center of everyone who walks into the store. "The idea was to show the river as it progresses and that it's there for everybody, from skiers using its snow high up in the mountains to kayakers, tubers and fly fishermen. She did a great job." Beauregard, who says she was working at the store at the time "for deals on paddling gear," says she painted it during a nascent part of her career, but that its message remains strong. "We wanted to try and get across the spirit of the Yampa and the importance of respecting it," she says.

The Seasons in Steamboat/The Scream/Red Hills and White Skull

Location: Elk Park

Artist: Elementary school students

Young at Art, originally known as Kaleidoscope, is a program centered on "self-expression, communication and creative problem solving." The group's mural plastered on the unlikely cinderblock canvas of the Elk Park bathroom is a testament to its mission. Depicting a montage of skiers billowing in powder, the slopes of Mt. Werner, as well as horses, rabbits and other animals, the project was funded by the Steamboat Springs Art Council and was completed in 2010 by 20 elementary school students enrolled in the Young at Art summer camp program. The recreations on the other side of the building were completed by two middle school students in 2011 who researched their favorite artist and then recreated one of their pieces. The murals are both unexpected and a welcome splash of color for those passing through the park.

The Emerald Garden

Location: Botanic Gardens

Artist: Chula Beauregard

Painted in 2001, this shed adornment was commissioned largely to help hide the outside of an unseemly shed commanding a corner of the Botanic Gardens along the Yampa River. Mimicking the verdant foliage and ridge line of Emerald Mountain behind it, Beauregard calls it "one of her early works" and downplays its contribution to the local outdoor art scene. "They wanted to cover up a shed in the middle of the garden and have it blend into the garden more," she says. "At the time the shed stuck out like a sore thumb, but now the bushes and trees around it have grown so it doesn't stick out as much anymore."

Starry Night/Cafe Terrace at Night

Location: Deja Vu Boutique

Artist: Donna Steele

Inspired by Van Gogh, Steamboat's newest mural was finished by artist Donna Steele in May 2015 and was commissioned by former Deja Vu Boutique owner Katie Gaylord. "She wanted something that draws your eye back toward that area of the building," says Steele, who completed the work in five days and had to get out early before it got too hot to paint. "She specifically wanted Cafe Terrace at Night, and then we came up with the idea to wrap Starry Night around it going up the stairs." For the Cafe depiction, regarded as Van Gogh's most famous painting, Steele took a photo and then gridded it off into squares to repaint. Starry Night, she says, "was more of an interpretation." On a side note, she adds that just as she was finishing the piece, a viral post swept the Internet interpreting the white-robed waiter and diners in Van Gogh's original Cafe Terrace as representing Jesus and his disciples.

Graffiti

Location: Treehouse Bridge

Artist: Unknown

We're not LA, but we do have bastions of basic graffiti. Not to glorify this defacing of public property, one of the most artistic examples can be found beneath the Treehouse Bridge, whose latest rendering depicts the usual lettering, scribbles, obscure characters, weird faces and more. While not on par with the Fremont pictographs and petroglyphs of nearby Dinosaur National Monument, the drawings are likely the work of more than one artist, featuring overlay upon overlay. The grassroots, underground style likely also denotes the customary code names and monikers of the vandals in question.

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