That’s a wrap: International artist Matt Willey finishes exterior paintings at Rifle Branch Library

Westley Crouch
For the Post Independent
The final product of international artist Matt Willey's mural at the Rifle Branch Library.
Westley Crouch/Post Independent

The Rifle Branch Library held a wrap-up party for The Good of The Hive Mural painted by Matt Willey on Saturday.

The mural will be a continuation of Willey’s The Good of the Hive project. Started in 2008, Willey is committed to hand-painting 50,000 bees globally.

Willey spoke to a packed room about his journey while in Rifle and what led him to paint this mural in the first place.

“I could not have done this if it wasn’t for the people on the ground,” he said, “I wanted to give a proper thanks to the Garfield County Libraries, James Larson, Alex Garcia-Bernal, Lydia Labelle de Rios and her family, and others.”

“This is your community and your place. It has been an amazing honor to be here,” added a grateful Willey. 

International artist Matt Willey didn’t just paint a mural at the Rifle Branch Library. Here, a honeybee and flowers painted by Willey decorate another section of the building.
Westley Crouch/Post Independent

Willey began his speech by telling of an encounter he had with a person while painting at the Rifle Branch Library. 

“I had a conversation with a person on why we, as humans, are different than bees. Normally my conversations are the other way around; as we all work together for the good of our hive,” he said. “As the conversation started, the person began by saying that we are blessed with a light in each of us, but also burdened with a shadow. 

“Some call that shadow the devil. Others call it ego, addiction, greed, or racism. It takes infinite forms and is very tricky to maneuver.”

Willey asked them if they have something like this in their hive, like “a shadow.” 

“They said yes they do, but it’s not quite the same,” he said. 

A close-up of a honeybee painted by international artist Matt Willey at the Rifle Branch Library.
Westley Crouch/Post Independent

Willey went on to explain that the person then said, “We are one being that has thousands of eyes, minds and hives.”

“We learn who and what we are in the darkness of the hive,” the person said to Willey. “We are born into our own shadow. We grow in the darkness of the shadow with others we love and trust. We do not experience aloneness until we are ready.”

“Ready for what?” Willey responded.

“The light,” the person said.

According to his speech, Willey wants all of us to find that light that each of us has. His mural in Rifle, like many of his murals that have come before, which can be found all over the world, is a reminder that we are all in this together. He also highlighted we must find our light and pass it on to others so we can do what is best for the good of the hive. 

More of international artist Matt Willey’s work at the Rifle Branch Library.
Westley Crouch/Post Independent

Food was catered for the event at the Rifle Branch Library and music was performed by Queen Bees — female-fueled music for the heart and soul. More about Queen Bees can be found on their website

Labelle de Rios hosted Willey with her and her family during his time here and said she has learned much from this experience. 

“While I was originally nervous to have an international artist live with us, Matt has been very humble and kind and gracious… It’s been one of the best experiences ever,” she said. “We have done a lot of sharing and growing through some challenges throughout the project. Our intuitions of what originally connected us have proven true through getting to know one another.”

International artist Matt Willey gives a speech at the Rifle Branch Library.
Westley Crouch/Post Independent

She is excited for the friendships and relationships that bringing the Good of the Hive to Rifle has fostered within the community, Labelle de Rios added.

Willey’s mural will be on display at the Rifle Branch Library for all to see. The patio, where the mural can be viewed, will be used as an education center for pollinator resiliency programs.

Folks listen to a speech by international artist Matt Willey at the Rifle Branch Library.
Westley Crouch/Post Independent
Insects painted by international artist Matt Willey at the Rifle Branch Library.
Westley Crouch/Post Independent

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