New Plans for Art on the Arkansas

The fish in the bathtub was the first image to appear on the levee.

The Pueblo Levee Mural Project has been a symbol of creativity in Pueblo since the 1970s when local artists began painting in the middle of the night to avoid criminal charges. Today the levee is the canvas to several artists from around the state of Colorado. There have been no recent additions to the three-mile-long mural, but plans to add to it are being arranged. This is according to Cynthia Ramu, the project’s director, who first got involved in 1988 when she began touching up and designing her own murals.

The construction on the 4th Street Bridge, along with limited access over the railroad yard, has halted much of the project’s progress, but Ramu says creative ideas are in the works. The newest image to the mural will be added on April 21, 2012 by local high school art students. Another project is scheduled for June. Ramu expects that projects will be more numerous now that the construction of the 4th Street Bridge is finished. However, the removal of a staircase that allowed access to the levee has added difficulty for the artists. Regardless of the challenges levee artists face, Ramu is certain that the opportunities for future mural additions are limitless.

In order to paint on the mural, artists must obtain a permit from the Water Conservancy District. While the District has been supportive of the project and willing to work with Ramu and the artists, Ramu says it is just a matter of aligning everything at once.

A governing board, made up of veteran levee artists, has been established to aid the continuance of the project. Ramu says that, “This governing board will help oversee keeping the project alive by creating new opportunities for artists to paint and deal with issues of access and safety.”  Ramu would ultimately like to create a non-profit to increase the possibility of future murals and assist with touching up the existing paintings.

The biggest goal of the project is to get the community involved. “It has always been my mission to … support people working along with being safe and adding as much artwork [as possible] to the wall,” explains Ramu. “The intention originally was to create a space where artists could paint large original artwork along the Arkansas River levee wall to support self-expression and build community.”

People involved in the project have also been pondering the idea of forming a festival around the mural. Ramu adds, “It would be great to have people come out and celebrate the murals. The art is really about the community of Pueblo.”

While additions to the mural have been slow-moving, Ramu says she would like to take back the Guinness World Record for longest continuous mural (which was surpassed a couple of years ago) within two years. To do so, Ramu says there needs to be a community movement. The project is open to anyone who is willing and has the manpower to add to the mural. “The future of the levee project is endless,” says Ramu. “The more artists support each, the more it will thrive.”

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