You might know her work from the tunnel that connects Keystone Resort's Lakeside Village to the parking lot across Highway 9, where, just a few steps inside, a fanciful display greets the eyes, engaging walkers on what might otherwise be a drab jaunt underground.
The tunnel, which meanders through a panoply of mountain vistas, was designed and painted by former Summit County local Maria Hedrick in 2004. "My whole idea with that was to gradually go through the seasons," said Hedrick. "Every year I add onto it."
This year, however, she returned to Keystone to paint murals in River Run Village.
The first, completed recently, is on Arapahoe Lodge across from 9280 Tap House. Measuring 21 x 12 feet, it is a silhouette of skiers on a chairlift fronted by a blue sky, evoking a quiet ride up the mountain in winter. The design was selected from several options Hedrick submitted to the homeowner's association.
"I did it single-handedly," Hedrick said of the work, estimating that she climbed the 25-foot scaffolding up and down more than 300 times. "I work alone; I really take pride in that," she said. "I am a woman, my own entity." Still, she recognized the help and support provided by Donna Nolz, commercial property manager for Vail Resorts, and Mark Matthews, executive director of Keystone Neighbourhood Company.
Hedrick mixes her own colors using Krylon water-based acrylic enamel - an outdoor wood paint that has a lifespan of 20-30 years - which she then seals with polyurethane.
Her background includes a bachelors degree in fine arts, a stint as a K-12 certified art teacher and nearly a decade living in Summit County, during which time she worked for Keystone's ski school, as a barista and at landscaping. Now she does mural work "all over" through her business, Creative Wave.
"I'm trained as a scenic artist in the theater, so I'm used to large scale," said Hedrick, who also does decorative painting using techniques like the French trompe l'oeil, which means "fool the eye."
Now that she has finished the chairlift piece, she's on to another mural - a 12 x 12-foot rendition of a fly fisherman at Silver Mill in River Run Village. For the new piece, she's working from a small-scale sample board and laying the mural out in a grid.
"It's a completely positive thing happening here," Hedrick said of the mural painting project, which is still under way. "A lot of people really love it."
That includes the anonymous Keystone homeowner who called Summit Daily to rave about the woman painting outside her window across the way, high off the ground. "We come here yearly and my husband and I are so happy to see local artists' work," she said.
For Hedrick, the joy of creating something by herself, with her own hands, is as exhilarating as the end result. "I just love what I do," Hedrick said. "I really love being an artist."