Aspen is known as a locale where celebrities from all over the globe visit as a special destination. Most often, those escapes happen in the winter when the world-class skiing and snowboarding is best, but Aspen has always aimed at widening its influence to encompass world-class culture year-round.
Though the mountain town revels in fine and contemporary art galleries, their street art and mural scene has lagged well behind. But — when Aspen sets its sights on something — Aspen manages to acquire it. Which is why a large outdoor mural will be completed by internationally-renowned artist Shepard Fairey. Fairey rose to popularity in the street art world when he launched the Andre the Giant OBEY series, spreading stickers and wheatpastes of a stylized version of Andre’s face across cities while attending Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Then, in 2008, Fairey gained even more attention when he created the Obama Hope poster for Obama’s presidential campaign. Since then, Fairey has traveled the world over, creating large-scale murals and wheatpastes, as well as showcasing interior work in galleries, in places like Paris, Detroit, South Africa — and now Aspen.
So how exactly did Aspen manage to land one of the most sought-after street artists? Step in Katie Kiernan, a local arts activist and supporter who founded 212GALLERY in 2005 and regularly deals with multi-million dollar acquisitions. In 2015, Kiernan landed Fairey for a solo exhibition inside 212GALLERY, but her hopes were always to curate something more spectacular than just a normal gallery show — especially since Fairey is more well-known for his guerrilla installations on the exterior of buildings.
“We wanted the show to be more than just the traditional white cube exhibition and with an artist like Shepard, the opportunity to connect Aspen to Shepard’s Global Mural Project was a super exciting opportunity,” Kiernan explained. “It took two and a half years to line everything up with Shepard’s global exhibition schedule [and] the City of Aspen, as well as to locate the perfect wall.”
The Global Mural Project that Kiernan referenced is an undertaking of Fairey’s that involves traveling all over the world to install massive murals — all with a suggestive tone of political activism. Fairey, after all, claimed his fame in part because of the highly political undercurrents he uses in his work. But even if you might not agree with Fairey’s views, his murals are visually stunning and expertly completed.
For the mural in Aspen, Fairey will use wheatpasting, which is a kind of street art that uses paper and something similar to wallpaper adhesive to glue a pre-made piece of art to the wall. Because most of the process is done at home or in a studio (or on a computer) the actual installation goes much quicker than a typically painted mural. According to Kiernan, Fairey started the install early this week and will be done by Thursday, June 28. The location is 520 East Durant Avenue.
About choosing the location for the mural, Kiernan added, “my friend and colleague Bob Chase of Chase art group and hexton Gallery joined the charge in November 2017 as the project began to ramp back up. Thanks to the addition of Bob and a list of incredible early supporters (like Babs from Big Wrap (who is responsible for suggesting the perfect wall), Andy Hecht & Jimmy Marcus (who are responsible for approving use of the perfect wall), Sue Hostetler, Michael Brown and surrounding business owners like Lee Keating from Performance, Bill Miller from Miller Sports, we have been able to get enough support to move through the application and review process with the City and HPC board. We got our final approval from the city/HPC on May 9th, which was amazing, but our work was just beginning!”
Though it might be too late for any of us to head to Aspen to see Fairey and his team working on the installation, there’s no need to worry because the mural will stay on that wall permanently. Not only will it remain as the first piece of (legal) street art in the mountain town, it will remain a testament to the efforts of so many people who made it happen.
“One of the primary goals of this project is to help enhance cultural tourism in Aspen. The fact that people have access to world-class culture here has become as important as access to nature and the outdoors,” Kiernan added. Until they acquire at least a few more murals, Aspen might not show up on the street art radar for quantity — but with this Fairey mural, they’ll certainly register for quality.
For more information about the story behind Fairey coming to Aspen, go here.