Hunting for Artistic Treasure in Alleys and Parking Lots

3/9/21

If Cortez could have a cultural motto, town leaders may want to consider City of Murals. Find out how artists transformed walls, even houses, into works of art.

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If you're looking for

public art in Cortez,

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look no farther than the

city's streets and alleys,

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where more than 40 murals are on display

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throughout the Business District.

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You're watching the Local News Network,

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brought to you by Keesee Motors

and Big O Tires in Cortez.

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I'm Wendy Graham Settle.

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Whether you're driving up Main Street

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or walking down a side street,

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you can't help but notice the many murals

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that decorate commercial and

public buildings around town.

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A local arts advisory committee estimates

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that more than 40 murals are on display,

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some hidden in alleys or

tucked away in parking lots.

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And when you find one

of the hidden murals,

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it's like discovering an unseen treasure.

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Sonja Horoshko, a local artist and member

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of the city's Arts Advisory Committee,

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said that the city's collection

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of wall murals started as a random effort

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by unknown artists in the

1970s, that eventually morphed

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into an organized project

from town businesses.

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Well, it is an interesting story.

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It wasn't begun by artists.

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It was begun by the landowners,

mostly on Main Street.

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Well, the large ones

you see on Main Street.

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They got together and made the effort

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because they saw the value of

the art murals on Main Street,

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hopefully to slow traffic

down a little bit,

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which it does do.

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I mean, they are interesting.

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The murals that came before that, though,

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were all sort of like the

canvas that people had at hand,

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and they're on South Broadway,

they're on motel walls.

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And artists around here,

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because we have no dedicated

exhibition space at all,

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we have no galleries, no

dedicated exhibition space.

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So, that's always been the way it is.

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So, a lot of the murals are

kind of hand spun out of,

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you know, like, "Oh, I think

I'll paint something here."

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And possibly some of them

were in trade for things,

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like I remember one on

a coffee shop was traded

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for food and coffee and stuff.

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As the commercial mural project developed,

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Cortez businesses hired

out-of-town artists,

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and that didn't sit

well with local artists,

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who then lobbied the city to

form an arts advisory committee

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to ensure that public

tax revenues were used

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to support local artists.

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As a result of the committee's advocacy,

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the city of Cortez commissioned

a series of downtown murals

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between 2009 and 2018, resulting

in eight large-scale works

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that depict Cortez history and cultures,

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and are visible to motorists

driving on Main Street.

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The Advisory Committee

also published a guide

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that identifies all the

city's known mural locations

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for visitors to use like a treasure map.

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Horoshko says the murals not

only have slowed traffic,

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but they've encouraged visitors

to hunt for the artwork.

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Over on the Sharehouse mural

that wraps around the corner,

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the newest one,

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I have so many people put

on Facebook their photo ops,

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their tours, and they

stand there like this

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in front of Ed's

particularly, 'cause he did.

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He's a very, very, very well-known,

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accomplished Native American artist,

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and he did autumn in

this particular mural,

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and it's of Hovenweep,

so people recognize that

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and they go stand there and do a photo op,

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which was really nice.

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Additional value added to why

you would have these murals

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and how successful they are.

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How do you measure that?

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You can find copies of the mural guide

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at the Colorado Visitors' Center.

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Thanks for watching this edition

of the Local News Network.

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Stay on top of our latest news stories

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on Instagram and Twitter,

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or listen to our stories on

your favorite podcast app.

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I'm Wendy Graham Settle.

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