Lightning Heart goes deep for Tramway mural |

Lightning Heart goes deep for Tramway mural

Fred Haberlein, known as Mr. Mural, also known as Lightning Heart, is at it again.

The man who has festooned countless Colorado water towers and building facades with his remarkable murals of sweeping landscapes, goes deep this time in a mural of the caverns beneath Iron Mountain.

Haberlein, who lives in No Name, was commissioned by Glenwood Caverns and Iron Mountain Tramway owners Steve and Jeanne Beckley and Chuck Peterson to paint a mural on the broad wall on the side of the Exclamation Point restaurant at the top of the tram.

Now passengers alighting from the gondolas can see what they’re in for: the deep, sparkling, spacious realm beneath Iron Mountain that is the Glenwood Caverns.

The 22 by 44-foot work, painted in earth tones and showing the striking formations below ground, from stalactites to soda straws to cave bacon, is Haberlein’s 124th mural.

“I’m so pleased to have one in my home town,” he said.

Part of the challenge of creating a larger-than-life-sized mural is the execution. Like Michelangelo who painted the ceiling of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel, Haberlein spends a lot of time on high ladders and scaffolding.

This mural was no exception.

Because it started eight feet off the ground, the top soared to 28 feet, Haberlein needed someone he trusted to anchor the ladder. He turned to his colleague artist Diane Seabrook, who gave physical as well as moral support.

At times he was staring way out into space.

“I could see 1,400 feet straight down to the river,” he said.

The mural was completed a week ago.

“It’s dedicated to cavers who seek the unknown,” he added.

Wednesday Haberlein was at work on another art project at the caverns. He’s painted a large tipi in traditional Ute symbols that will serve as a center for kids’ activities.

Ute elders performed a blessing ceremony when the tramway opened at the end of April.

“I wanted to tie it in with Ute culture,” Haberlein said.

The tipi, a traditional home for Plains Indians, is 24 feet in diameter.

“It’s the biggest tipi I ever pitched,” Haberlein said. The poles that form the superstructure are 30 feet long.

Haberlein painted traditional Ute symbols on the outside of the tipi, including circles indicating the four sacred directions.

There is a bear in the north side which represents the Ute’s spring Bear Dance.

In addition to his outdoor work, Haberlein’s art is also on display inside the restaurant and bar.

Another Haberlein mural decorates the north wall of the Colorado Canoe and Kayak store at 910 Grand Avenue in downtown Glenwood Springs.

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