Activists, artists paint Black Lives Matter mural in front of Frisco Town Hall
FRISCO — Another block of Frisco’s Main Street was closed off Tuesday as Colorado artists from Summit County and the Front Range painted a Black Lives Matter mural in front of Frisco Town Hall. Local artist and activist Shannon Galpin spearheaded the mural, which was unanimously approved by Frisco Town Council last week. The work of art is expected to be one of the first of its kind in a rural mountain town.
Galpin is also behind the Summit County Hope Project, which was started to spread messages of hope and strength throughout the area during the coronavirus pandemic. The Frisco resident is known for promoting equality in the cycling community in the Middle East with her movie “Afghan Cycles” and co-founding the wildlife conservation nonprofit Endangered Activism alongside her daughter Devon Galpin Clark.
While the mural inherently speaks to protests against police brutality across the country, Galpin localized it as a message asking for inclusivity in mountain communities and outdoor recreation. Artists came from all over Colorado to contribute to the piece for that reason.
“It’s one thing to have (the mural) in the inner city, but as an African American that loves to be outdoors and adventure beyond the Front Range, there are definite issues out here when you do that,” said Aaron Sutton, a Denver muralist known as Visual Goodies. A recent, high-profile example is when a woman called 911 on birdwatcher Christian Cooper in Central Park this spring. Sutton added that he hasn’t personally had any bad experiences but that he wants to make outdoor companies and recreationists more accountable.
Another example that Galpin gave is climbing routes with racist and misogynistic names such as Slant Eyes, Slavery Wall, Happiness in Slavery, Smack That Bitch Up and Lynch Mob.
“Names matter, and the way we approached the outdoors matters, especially if it’s dominated by a particular color of people,” she said.
Sutton is one of 13 professional artists — along with an architect and an interior designer, students of all ages and other community members — who came on short notice to voluntarily assist in the mural’s creation. It was Sutton’s first time working with Galpin and making a brush mural, as he usually works with aerosols.
Just a few feet away from Sutton’s letter C, Amy Johnson and Johnny Draco of the Denver-based design company Realize worked on the B. Draco filled the letter with stylized birds symbolizing freedom. Nearby, Frisco resident Piotr Olimpiusz Kopytek, of Blue Heron Tattoo, painted the S while Silverthorne’s Kellie Rogers covered the K in stylized mountain imagery. Rogers met Galpin at Frisco’s Black Lives Matter march in June.
“It’s an extension of the protest,” said Rogers, who painted a mural at HighSide Brewery. “It’s just a way to get further involved in our community with this movement, and I think it’s just the most important thing happening right now. … It’s really cool to see the town support it and really step up and make a statement about everything going on.”
Other letters reference the Progress Pride Flag, Black explorers and endangered animals. Consuelo Redhorse, a member of the Summit School District Board of Education, added red handprints to the M in dedication of murdered and missing Indigenous women.
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The town supplied materials for the piece, and it went off smoothly given the quick turnaround — aside from driving to Denver due to a shortage of local asphalt paint and Monday night rainfall erasing the chalk outlines.
The artists did have a few people yell angrily at them when walking or driving by, but Galpin said in-person support was largely positive.
However, the mural quickly received a lot of negative feedback on social media, but the town is standing firm in its decision to host the artwork. Though town officials said they don’t support everything the organization stands for, such as defunding the police, they said they support the message and the Black population.
Mayor Pro Tem Jessica Burley said the mural aligns with the council’s goals to prioritize being an inclusive community and to champion public art that reflects the zeitgeist. Burley said the police department supported the June march and that police blocked off traffic for the artists and provided safety.
On Facebook the town responded directly to critics in a comment that said “The Black Lives Matter movement goes way beyond discussions of the judicial system and deals with inequities in everything from health care to housing to education to employment and beyond.” The comment also reiterated that the Frisco Police Department supports “equity for all” and that the mural wasn’t presented “as a statement regarding local police.”
“Black Lives Matter acknowledges the reality that Black lives and brown lives have not been valued and respected in the same way as white lives,” Burley said. “All lives cannot matter until we equally value all of them.”
Burley understands that the artwork is not policy or an end-all cure for systemic racism but rather the start of a conversation that will lead to change.
“We are a very homogeneous community from the outside, but we know we have very essential people in this community that feel like they are not being seen and heard, and that’s not acceptable to this council,” Burley said. “So we want to make sure that their story is also being told.”
Galpin expects the mural to stay up until covered by snow or as long as the paint will last before fading away, possibly through spring.
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