Grand County has never been known as an art destination. Within the boundaries of one of the state’s largest counties, visitors instead find outdoor pursuits like snowsports at Winter Park Resort and Devil’s Thumb, boating and fishing at Lake Granby or Grand Lake, hiking and camping in Rocky Mountain National Park and soaking in the natural springs in Hot Sulphur Springs. That’s not to say artsy events don’t ever happen there — for over 40 years, Winter Park has hosted the Alpine Art Affair for instance — but generally speaking, cultural innovation sits on the backburner.
But last year, street art started taking hold in both Fraser and Granby. It wasn’t the first time murals appeared in Grand County — there was one painted by local artist Katrina Larson in the early 2000s on a building that is no longer standing — but it was the first time the towns were behind it. So last year, Fraser started the Fraser Mural Project, commissioning several murals including an outstanding piece by Denver-based artist MPEK. Down the road in Granby, Denver-based So-Gnar Creative Division worked with the town to create a large community-focused mural that spans from Mesa Street to Zero Street. It is the largest mural painted in Granby to date — although that may all change in June.
So-Gnar didn’t want to stop at one mural, and neither did the town of Granby. So after that first collaboration, the two groups worked together to organize the first ever Grand County street art festival — RKY MTN WALLS. It will take place June 19 through 26 and features 16 artists, 90% of whom are Denver locals. Part of the reason it’s hyper-local is that So-Gnar wanted the experience to serve as an artist retreat, where the artists travel to the mountains together and enjoy the other offerings of Grand County when they aren’t busy painting.
A major influence for RKY MTN WALLS undoubtedly comes from the passion that members of So-Gnar have for outdoor pursuits found in Grand County, specifically snowboarding. Pat Milbery, before becoming one of Denver’s most well-known street artists, started So-Gnar as a snowboard and design company and still works often with ski resorts on projects. His and fellow member Pat McKinney’s love for the mountains led them to pursue a mural in Granby in the first place. They had such a wonderful time they wanted to share that with fellow Denver street artists, to give them a breath of fresh air.
RKY MTN WALLS’ roster of artists sets it apart from other first-time mural festivals. Most of these artists are past CRUSH participants and legends in the Denver scene. From Anthony Garcia Sr., a Denver native and founder of the Birdseed Collective, to the delightful duo of Jaime Molina and Pedro Barrios who have been painting together since 2012, to the powerhouses of Dread (CRUSH’s founder), Detour and beloved Koko Bayer — these artists are no first-timers. We’re also excited about the whimsical, cartoonish mastermind Mike Graves, the geometric goddess Sandra Fettingis and the colorful works by Esic. The murals the artists create will be one-of-a-kind because they will work in teams of two, producing collaborative pieces that are vibrant, inspirational, inclusive and positive.
With these eight teams working together, the visual landscape of Granby will change dramatically. Of course, the artist pairs have been thoughtfully curated by So-Gnar to enhance the natural beauty of the mountains, but nevertheless, Main Street is getting a facelift. In many ways, these veteran artists are going to set a high standard for street art in the small mountain town — and we aren’t complaining about that.
The full list of artists is below:
For more information and recommendations on travel, food and lodging in Grand County visit the RKY MTN WALLS website, here.