Local artist kicks off countywide street art installation

A heart symbol created by Denver artist Koko Bayer is displayed outside the the Frisco/Copper Information Center on Monday, May 25. The project was created to inspire hope to the Summit County community during the coronavirus pandemic.
Jason Connolly /

DILLON — Residents around Summit County will begin seeing paper hearts and messages of “Hope — Love — Strength” pop up around the county over the coming weeks as part of a communitywide street art installation.

The Summit County Hope Project is a collaboration between local street artist and social justice activist Shannon Galpin, Denver-based artist Koko Bayer and the Summit High School class of 2020. The goal is simple: to remind community members that even in times of great stress, hope will remain.

“It’s a three-phased project around the idea of ‘if we have hope,’” Galpin said. “We need a visual, cohesive project throughout the entire county that can help us work through our grieving process, while having something joyful to celebrate that coincides with graduation and the community starting to reopen.”

Galpin is known for her work as a global human rights activist. She spent the last decade traveling back and forth between her home base in Frisco and Afghanistan, where she was named a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year for her work on women’s rights projects, including serving as a key figure in the “right-to-ride” movement — combating taboos around women riding bikes — and supporting the country’s first women’s national cycling team through her nonprofit, Mountain2Mountain.

Galpin has also worked on a number of public art projects in Denver, France and England, among other locales, creating projects meant to expand on conversations regarding climate change, environmentalism, harassment and more.

The idea for the project sprung up when Summit High School’s seniors chose Galpin to be their commencement speaker. She said when she was writing the speech, she wanted to leave the seniors with a message of hope.

Artists Shannon Galpin and Koko Bayer put up public art installations as part of the Summit County Hope Project.
Courtesy Shannon Galpin via Devon Galpin Clarke

“I wanted to remind them that you cannot envision any social justice movement, any peaceful revolution — you can’t reimagine a different world, which is kind of what we need to do as a community and nation — without hope as a foundation,” Galpin said. “It’s also vital to mental health. You can’t develop the ingredients of courage and resilience without having hope.”

But Galpin said the message fell flat on video, and she decided to reach out to the local governments with an idea for a large-scale street art installation. The towns jumped on board in short order, and FirstBank funded the project with a $10,000 sponsorship.

Artist Koko Bayer joined the project soon after, designing the “hope hearts” used on the installation. The first phase of the project includes placing the temporary hearts on storefronts, bus stops, widows and areas around the county over the next week. Galpin said there will also be three larger permanent hearts at the Dillon Amphitheater, the Family & Intercultural Resource Center office in Silverthorne and Outer Range Brewing Co. in Frisco.

“There’s meant to be an intersection between permanent and temporary. While some will fade, we will have three very large ‘hope hearts’ that will remain in the county as a statement that hope can be permanent,” Galpin said. “That hope will stay here in the community.”

The second phase will include a series of bilingual stencil art installations on sidewalks and “surprising” areas around the county. Next, Galpin will be doing a series of her own semi-permanent “love letter” murals to students and other members of the community.

Finally, once social distancing requirements are eased, students at Summit High School will be able to collaborate with Galpin on a mural at the school. Individuals involved are also helping to distribute mini hope hearts to students in the county to display in their windows.

Galpin said she hopes the artwork makes a difference over the coming weeks and years, and that it’s a pleasure to finally get to share her work with her own community.

“I hope this community recognizes that public art has a role in healing. This project is really about us coming together as we emerge from our safer-at-home sheltering. This is for the student body and the rest of the community. So every time they see a heart or a sidewalk stencil, or read a love letter, I hope they recognize this is for them.”

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