A Public Art Project Banksy Would Love

Published in the Summer/Fall issue of Vail-Beaver Creek Magazine

As wildflowers return to alpine meadows during the fleeting summer months, seasonal visitors flocking to Vail Village might notice another colorful display emerging around town: a new crop of larger-than-life murals spreading like wisteria over concrete walls of parking structures in Lionshead Village and at the Vail Transportation Center. The displays—part of the Town of Vail’s Art in Public Places programming—will cover less visually appealing sections of stuccoed square footage that haven’t already been enhanced by local artists like Natalie de Stefano (whose wildlife-themed landscapes adorn the walls of both ski school locations in Golden Peak and Lionshead) or Randy Milhoan (the painter responsible for the Paleolithic cave art renderings on walls around Lionshead Village’s parking garage).

From June through August, the Town of Vail will host four celebrated Colorado muralists—Kelsey Montague, Patrick Milbery, Pedro Barrios, and Jaime Molina—giving them creative license to paint the town red (or whatever hues they fancy), although, as of press time, town officials remained tight-lipped as to the exact locations of the works-to-be. “These will all be long-term displays that are visually enhancing,” says Art in Public Places Coordinator Molly Eppard of the longevity of each piece. “It’s an interactive display, and we think there will be an excitement to the different stages of the murals.” 

Muralist Kelsey Montague’s interactive installation in DallasIMAGE: COURTESY KELSEY MONTAGUE

Cue Montague, a fourth-generation Coloradan who’s slated to be the town’s first muralist-in-residence in mid-June. “I love creating something that’s for a specific community and inviting those people and that community into the piece; that’s really what drives me as an artist,” she says. “I love it when people step into my art—in a lot of ways, they finish the piece.”

Among those who have most notably interacted with her street art? Taylor Swift, who shared a selfie (seemingly sprouting a pair of angel wings Montague painted on a brick wall in Manhattan’s Nolita neighborhood) with her 100-million-plus Instagram followers in 2015.

“That was one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments,” reminisces Montague, who created temporary murals in Vail and Beaver Creek for the FIS World Alpine Ski Championships that same year. Swift’s viral endorsement of her work begat commissions from around the world, including interactive works like Banksy-esque fluorescent-colored bundles of balloons with dangling strings that passersby can grasp and seemingly float away with, and a giant, cartoon-like flowering cactus with a bench dangling from a spiny arm, inviting pedestrians to recline.

A Kelsey Montague mural in New York CityIMAGE: COURTESY KELSEY MONTAGUE

Following Montague will be Pat Milbery, a professional snowboarder who moonlights off-season as a street artist known for vibrantly colored, geometric displays that have graced buildings around the Front Range and, most prominently, a 498-foot-long mural along a highway underpass in Denver’s colorful River North “RiNo” arts district. Then will come a collaboration between Barrio and Molina, who have worked together creating dozens of whimsical, eye-catching murals around the Denver metropolitan area (witness their homage to M.C. Escher—a naturescape seemingly pops and drips off the facade of the Denver Art Museum).

“Some people think that the only thing mountain towns have is recreation, but there’s so many different layers of culture here,” says Eppard. “We’re really excited to visually enhance these spaces with art, and also have such an interesting demographic of Colorado artists come to town.”

And paint it while they’re here.

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