A new Arts Month project will accomplish two goals: beautify vacant storefronts and amplify the voices of local Black artists.

The Solidarity Mobile Mural Project features 10 new murals placed throughout downtown Colorado Springs, Old Colorado City and Manitou Springs. Participating artists include Floyd D. Tunson, Parker Camp, James A. Dixon, Jasmine Holmes and Jeresneyka Rose. Murals and artists can be viewed online at creativecircuit.org.

It’s a project sired from a tumultuous year, in which businesses have folded under the weight of the pandemic and racial tension has filled the streets and news. Empty windows are a serious blight when it comes to city life, says Claire Swinford, director of urban engagement for Downtown Partnership of Colorado Springs. The bare holes provide little incentive to visitors to keep walking and exploring, and might also contribute to the collective malaise many feel these days, especially those who remember the previously thriving stores.

“We knew we had artists of color in this community who have great things to say, like what it’s like to be working in creative industries as a Black person,” Swinford says.

“When you have a piece of art in a public place, people come together and talk about it. It allows us to empathize and take a different perspective.”

Vashti Ruiz chose the purple coneflower for her mural “Echinacea” because of its hardiness.

“I wanted a piece dedicated to some of the women in my family who I’ve seen struggle and go through things nobody should go through,” says Ruiz, whose work is at Manitou Art Center, 515 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs.

“They came out of it stronger than they were before,” she says. “I wanted to showcase to women and African American women that you can do this. Especially since I have a daughter. I want her to see you can do this, you can have your art out there. And I wanted more representation.”

The project is a joint effort by the people behind My Black Colorado, a directory showcasing the local Black community, and the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region. In honor of Arts Month, an annual October celebration held in cities across the country to promote the arts, they asked Black artists in the Pikes Peak region to lend their works to the city.

“There’s an incredible breadth of different artistic disciplines,” Swinford says.

“We’re hoping it not only raises questions about who gets access and who gets seen, but also gives people a sense of hope and pride in their community.”

Murals are mostly 4 feet by 8 feet, with one that’s 8 feet by 8 feet, and are made out of sticky wallpaper so they can be easily removed. Locations include EpiCentral, 415 N. Tejon St.; Sno-White Linen & Uniform Rental, 2515 W. Colorado Ave.; and Casa Mundi, 418 S. Tejon St.

After Oct. 31, the murals will be moved to different locations across the city. Artists and businesses interested in featuring murals are invited to be part of the project.

“I’m so proud this is even in our city in the first place,” Ruiz says. “It makes me excited for the future of showcasing different artists like me.”

Contact the writer: 636-0270

Contact the writer: 636-0270

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