Local artists using their talents to add personality to area electrical boxes
Special to the Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – The great thing about murals is the canvas can be just about anything.
Even electrical transformer boxes.
Wearing a stylish knit hat and a perpetual smile, Noemi Kosmowski dabs paint on the large square transformer box at the corner of Blake Avenue and Hyland Park Drive near the Sayre Park ballfield, her buoyant personality bubbling over. She has created a Saint Bernard rescue dog. Along with her husband Kristof, who is slightly less chatty, the two natives of Poland are tackling the public art program for the city of Glenwood Springs.
Working as volunteer artists, Noemi explains why they got involved.
“It’s our love of art and because we are crazy, a little bit.”
The two, who still have remnants of their Polish accents, tag-team the project with Noemi painting the distinct dogs and Kristof doing the landscape mural.
The two say their love of art has led to a very happy and content 28 years of marriage.
“It’s like minus and plus,” Kristof says about their different styles of painting that merge into a perfect team.
“If it were the same we would probably fight, but we never fight about art,” his wife adds.
The Kosmowskis, who are both 55 years old, came to America 25 years ago and have been in Glenwood Springs for a little less than two years now. Their art has made the rounds at many of the valley’s art galleries.
The mural project is their current focus, and Noemi can’t hide her excitement when she talks about the future murals.
“There will be grizzly bears at one of the bus stops,” she says, then offers an enthusiastic growl. “It will be there to scare the people.”
She laughs again.
The tentative plan for the Eighth Street bridge is to have a mural of running horses on each side.
“I can’t wait, that’s my passion. I love painting horses,” she says.
“It’s going to change [the look] of that whole area,” adds Kristof.
The public art project idea was first hatched by Al Laurette, parks superintendent for Glenwood. He took notice in other places where art had enhanced areas and basically turned bland spots into something special.
“I’ve gone to other cities and have seen how other communities and areas have been dressed up,” Laurette says. “I thought, maybe we could do some things in highly visible locations.”
He approached Gayle Mortell at the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts, and soon after, the paint was being mixed.
Laurette remembered working in Breckenridge when that town added murals to large green electrical transformer boxes. They made for the perfect canvas.
The Kosmowskis submitted sketches and ideas to the city for approval. The transformer box at 17th and Blake is the second mural on the list. The first one is at the 27th Street roundabout.
“Recognizing that art is desirable, we wanted to take mundane places and do things of interest,” says Laurette, who has been with the parks department for nine years.
In the past, he’s allowed workers from his summer crew to use their artistic ability to add splashes of color and art to a few places.
Laurette passes the credit to others for getting the current project going.
“I believe all the credit needs to go to the artists and Gayle, who has facilitated it,” he says.
One area that Laurette identified as a prime location where ugly could be eliminated is the Rio Grande Railroad bridge just north of the Eighth Street bridge.
“There’s a vision to do something on those walls because they are so ugly,” he says.
All of the concepts presented by the Kosmowskis will be animal-landscape murals.
The city provides materials for the project but due to a limited budget, the artists must volunteer their time, Laurette says.
The Kosmowskis don’t anticipate starting another mural project until spring when the winter weather fades.
Noemi, who also teaches classes at the Center for the Arts, says the mural project is a perfect fit for them. “This is something that we’ve always wanted to do. We would see an ugly building or wall and say, ‘That needs a mural.'”
The Kosmowskis are also musicians, with Noemi playing the guitar and congas, and providing the vocals. Kristof plays anything she hands him, she says with a laugh.
Art is part of their heritage, and their two children are continuing that tradition. Their daughter, Ewa, is currently starring in the Broadway show “Cats,” while their son Maks is in the field of computer animation.
Art consumes Kristof and Noemi, and they say they paint nearly ever day.
Noemi quickly identifies her all-time favorite work.
“It’s always the last one. Every time you paint you learn something new,” she says.
Kristof says perfection may be the goal, but you never want to achieve it.
“If you achieve perfection then you can never do better, and it will be time to move onto something else,” he says.
With any artists, the completed project offers a high level of satisfaction and accomplishment.
Like the mural at the 27th Street roundabout, which includes a squirrel with a basket of nuts along with a mountain landscape.
“We would drive around the circle like crazy, like a million times looking at it,” Kristof says, and they both laugh.
The project will be ongoing as the city identifies areas where murals can be created.
Laurette says that other artists can get involved if they have an interest and ability.
“If someone else has others ideas, we’d like to encourage them to contact us,” he says.
As drab concrete walls and large mundane green electrical transformer boxes get artistic make-overs, the city of Glenwood Springs is putting art on display.
Laurette’s goal was to take the bleak and blah and transform it into something unique and wow.
The Kosmowskis are all about wow, regardless of what the canvas might be.
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Policy that dictates what for-profit activities should be officially sanctioned within Glenwood Springs parks is being reviewed by city staff and will likely come before the city council for final approval later this summer.