Reaching out through public art

Leah Brenner Clack was working at a gallery in Boulder when she began to notice what she considered a dearth of public art in the community.

“I felt like the arts weren’t represented in public art,” she said. “There were a lot of sculptures, but not much new in the mural direction."

Clack, who founded her company, Art Space, in 2015, decided to change that. She started by finding walls appropriate for murals, reaching out to the building owners and connecting them to artists. Now her work also includes looking for grants and working with nonprofits to facilitate the creation of more public art.

Public art serves an important function in a community, Clack believes, making art available to anyone who walks or drives by.

“Everybody gets to encounter art without the pressure to understand it or respond in a certain way,” she said. “It’s very much a freer experience."

She added that public art also encourages viewers to create their own art: by taking a photograph, for example. Clack once saw someone spontaneously create a dance in front of a mural.

Chris Warren, an artist who lives in North Boulder, created a mural for the NoBo Art District on a building on Broadway and Violet. After that commission, public murals have become a significant part of his work.

The NoBo mural, like many of his murals, is his interpretation of a topographic map of the location of the building and its surrounding area, including a You Are Here point.

“It’s celebrating the land around the mural at the same time as the mural,” he said, although some people unfamiliar with topographic maps may not realize what it is. “It’s kind of an abstraction of the maps they are used to seeing. When they find out, it’s an added layer.”

by Cindy Sutter