Log In

Reset Password

Our View: Smaller art projects as worthy as larger ones

The surprise of public art – whether murals on drab cinderblock walls or recycled metal twisted into something intriguing – gives places some pluck. Even better is when unexpected artistic gems are aesthetic and elevate the uniqueness of communities.

So we’re happy to hear about the city of Cortez’s Community and Economic Development and the LOR Foundation’s unveiling of a creative grant program called 81321 Launch, which awards funding for small, identity building projects that create a sense of community in Cortez.

The scale is modest with grant tiers divided by requests that are “tiny” (up to $499) or “micro” (between $500 and $1,499) or “small” ($1,500 to $4,000).

No shame in going small. Smaller equals doable and manageable.

And Cortez has much to gain because the doors swing open wider to more applicants likely to roll up their sleeves and go for it, inviting in their artistic visions reasonable to implement. Projects that spiff up downtown with personality and beauty, reflecting the uncomplicated message – this is an aspect of who we are.

Passers-by can’t help but be engaged. Public art sparks conversations and with each stroke of a paintbrush, adds another layer of community spirit.

On Saturday online in The Journal, Cortez’s Community and Economic Development Specialist Helen West said the city had discussed the possibility of children using grant money to buy supplies to paint trash cans.

Even painted trash bins are uplifting, adding some shine to a place.

Projects are expected to benefit the community in some way. It gets us thinking how Cortez will be represented in artwork as “something tangible that can be seen, felt, or experienced,” a point that creatives are asked to think about before applying.

Cortez’s Public Arts Committee will review grant applications and provide advisement. The LOR Foundation, which works with Mountain West rural communities to enhance livability and prosperity while preserving character, will choose the winners and determine the funding.

The first round of funding closed on Monday; the second round is open until May 1; the third and final round between August and October.

Not only will the artwork pop on Cortez’s streets, exposure will benefit artists, as happened in Durango for muralists.

Passing by Maddie Sanders’ serpent mural at Camino del Rio and East 14th Street in downtown Durango, it’s difficult to remember the time before this painting anchored that intersection with its simple – yet bold – yellow and red brilliance.

Or the mural on Mac’s Liquor, painted by Hannah Wilson, nodding to Durango’s craft brewing industry, and dressing up City Market’s parking lot on north Main Avenue and 32nd Street.

Money for these projects came from Durango’s lodgers tax. Since 2022, 72 projects have been fully or partially funded, with $1 million going toward arts and culture.

The serpent mural was Sanders’ ticket to more opportunities. She was awarded a Durango Creates! grant for a mural at Manna soup kitchen. Then she painted one for Fort Lewis College.

According to a news story in The Durango Herald on Dec. 23, 2023, Sanders received $10,000 for the serpent mural and netted $5,000. She received $5,000 for the Manna mural, pocketing about $2,500.

Wilson was granted about $8,500 and took home close to $5,000 for about 70 hours of work on the Mac’s Liquor mural.

Higher stakes in these Durango projects than what’s presented with the 81321 Launch. But smaller, identity art projects are just as vital and worthy as larger ones. They encourage Cortez’s creatives to realize dreams for all of us to see, appreciate and wonder over, no matter the medium.