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Why Bad Art is Good (Part 1)

Debra Cooper is a self-taught mixed media artist and visual journaler. Visit her artist blog at www.debracoooperart.com

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Yet, even when you manage to put pen or brush to paper, there are other creative demons waiting for their chance to send you packing. As soon as you feel yourself warming up to the task, whispers of doubt will inevitably drift in. It starts innocently enough (“You don’t have time for this. There are so many other things yo…

!– BEGIN THEIA POST SLIDER —

Yet, even when you manage to put pen or brush to paper, there are other creative demons waiting for their chance to send you packing. As soon as you feel yourself warming up to the task, whispers of doubt will inevitably drift in. It starts innocently enough (“You don’t have time for this. There are so many other things you need to be doing.”), but the clamor becomes more insidious as you push the thoughts away to focus on the creative work at hand (“You can’t do this, you don’t have what it takes. This is stupid/ugly/pointless. No one else will like it. You will never be a real artist.”)

You are not alone in this struggle. Every artist, regardless of their perceived success, will wrestle daily with similar fears and doubts as long as they are pushing themselves to grow as artists. But having such fears isn’t the problem. Giving in to them is.

Realistically, you probably will not be the next Pablo Picasso. But so what? This fact doesn’t let you off the hook. The creative impulse inside you is there for a reason. Your job is not to understand it but to be faithful to it. Your job is simply to show up and do the work. What happens after that is beyond your control.

So how do you gain the confidence to face the blank canvas, the voices of fear and doubt, the perfectionist within? By embracing failure and giving yourself permission to create something ugly. Despite what you have been told, ugly art is good. Ugly art says, “Instead of pretending I am creative because I spent all morning on…

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Minority Majority: Pueblo Hispanics must redefine what it means to be Hispanic in the Steel City

Now that the minority are majority in Pueblo, Hispanics will for the first time be forced to define is what it means to be Hispanic in Pueblo, in the ways of culture, sports, civic life, philanthropy, and faith.

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Sometime in this last decade, the City of Pueblo hit the inflection point where there were more people of Hispanic origin than of White according to the census.

The number, 49-percent of persons of Hispanic origin in 2010, ticked quietly to 52-percent in 2017. Pueblo County as a whole is 42-percent Hispanic origin.

Pueblo is and will be a ‘Border Town’– a confluence city of cultures and people where it’s normal and unsurprising to meet a family with a Slovenian-Irish-Greek-Mexican-German-Italian origination story or some combination thereof because of the number of immigrants needed to work the mines and mills for production of American steel.

In less than 50 years Hispanics have gone from being no more than a quarter of the population and marginalized in many ways of Pueblo life. What Hispanics will for the first time be forced to define is what it means to be Hispanic in Pueblo, in the ways of culture, sports, civic life, philanthropy, and faith.

After steel and the industrial era of Pueblo collapsed, Pueblo began commodifying the nostalgia into heritage tourism and it found another worldwide brand – Pueblo Chile. From the Pueblo Chile license plates, TV shows featuring Coor’s Tavern and The Sunset Inn sloppers, an official brand for Pueblo Chile, and reputation for its food – Pueblo has changed its narrative from an industrial western town towards a dustier version of a border town, with an adobe fort, traders from various nations and more copacetic spirit towards indigenous peoples.

It’s a positive image but the focus on only Pueblo Chile has dominated, even pushed aside other aspects of Hispanic life to be reduced down to a Fiesta Day Parade and Tex-Mex La Cocina dishes.

This is the space Pueblo Hispanics will have to settle in to change. What is Pueblo beyond Pueblo Chile for Hispanics?

!– BEGIN THEIA POST SLIDER —

Sometime in this last decade, the City of Pueblo hit the inflection point where there were more people of Hispanic origin than of White according to the census.
The number, 49-percent of persons of Hispanic origin in 2010, ticked quietly to 52-percent in 2017. Pueblo County as a whole is 42-percent Hispanic origin.
Pueblo is and will be a ‘Border Town’– a confluence city of cultures and people where it’s normal and unsurprising to meet a family with a Slovenian-Irish-Greek-Mexican-German-Italian origination story or some combination thereof because of the number of immigrants needed to work the mines and mills for production of American steel.
In less than 50 years Hispanics have gone from being no more than a quarter of the population and marginalized in many ways of Pueblo life. What Hispanics will for the first time will be forced to define is what it means to be Hispanic in Pueblo, in the ways of culture, sports, civic life, philanthropy, and faith.
After steel and the industrial era of Pueblo collapsed, Pueblo began commodifying the nostalgia into heritage tourism and it found another worldwide brand – Pueblo Chile. From the Pueblo Chile license plates, TV shows featuring Coor’s Tavern and The Sunset Inn sloppers, an official brand for Pueblo Chile, and reputation for its food – Pueblo has changed its narrative from an industrial western town towards a dustier version of a border town, with an adobe fort, traders from various nations and more copacetic spirit towards indigenous peoples.
It’s a positive image but the focus on only Pueblo Chile has dominated, even pushed aside other aspects of Hispanic life to be reduced down to a Fiesta Day Parade and Tex-Mex La Cocina dishes.
This is the space Pueblo Hispanics will have to settle in to change. What is Pueblo beyond Pueblo Chile for Hispanics?
I don’t know that answer but I know today just the name Hispanic, or Latino, Chicano even LatinX isn’t enough to describe some Puebloans.
Like the confluence point where the Fountain Creek mixes with the Arkansas River, Pueblo is much the same, a multicultural town made up of various nations, immigrants and indigenous peoples.
Hispanic-Slovenian, Vietnamese-Mexican, Italian-New Mexican, Mexican-Anglo, Navajo-Mexican American – the combinations change but the effect is the same. None of which is unique to Pueblo except the affinity that Pueblo sees itself as a place of confluence.
Maybe that’s why Hispanic culture in Pueblo is muted beyond the tourism angle. For many Hispanics, myself included, either you’re white or you’re Hispanic and with that comes the racial predetermination that you are, well, – not American but Mexican-American, from the barrio or “east side,” which is not something that should be looked down on.
This space is where Pueblo Hispanics will be challenged to retain their heritage but also redefine what it means to be “Pueblo.”
You can see this playing out now in “The Grove,” one of Pueblo’s oldest neighborhoods, which sits above the Arkansas River and Fountain Creek confluence. Because of its position between downtown Pueblo and CF&I, the neighborhood was a likely spot for immigrant families to live, worship and enjoy life. Today, however, like other old neighborhoods in Pueblo it’s tired, not broken, just tired from the weight of steel’s collapse.
There is progress. In a span of just a few blocks underneath the redesign of I-25, …
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Let’s Talk About It: Pueblo Murals

Once viewed as vandalism, street art has become the dominant voice of art in Pueblo.

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Look down virtually any of the alleyways in the East side and Bessemer areas of Pueblo and at various locations downtown and in the business district, and you can find some form of street art. Pueblo is regarded nationally as a street art capital, and it’s no secret why. For one, Pueblo is home to many members of the high-profile Creatures Crew – a muralist/graffiti artists group that host collaborators and fellow artists from around the country. You can find some of their work gracing the walls behind The Klamm Shell in Bessemer, or the alleyway outside of Shamrock Brewing Co.

In 2015, local muralist Mathew Taylor hosted The High Desert Mural Fest here in Pueblo. And along the Arkansas River levee used to be the longest mural in the world as officially declared by the Guinness Book of World Records. The mural ran for three miles along the levee up until around four years ago, when the City of Pueblo announced that a nearly $15 million construction project to address repairs to the levee would mean the destruction of the beloved mural that had been around since the 1970s. Efforts were made to preserve parts of the mural, but it ceases to maintain its world-record status.

Other recognizable murals in Pueblo include a large brown bear surrounded by flowers in the Central Plaza area (painted by Taylor and co artist Michael Strescino), the famous faces depicted outside the Pirate’s Cove, a horse stuck in a tree down on Main Street (that was actually commissioned by the city to commemorate the flood of 1921) and many others ranging from simple to more abstract designs. Some of these designs cross into graffiti territory, but retain an obvious component of artistry that keeps people of the community and city officials from calling for their removal.

Therein lies a point of debate surrounding the street art movement in Pueblo. When is street art considered vandalism? Where do we draw the line between approved artistic expression and illegal tagging?

!– BEGIN THEIA POST SLIDER —

Look down virtually any of the alleyways in the East side and Bessemer areas of Pueblo and at various locations downtown and in the business district, and you can find some form of street art. Pueblo is regarded nationally as a street art capital, and it’s no secret why. For one, Pueblo is home to many members of the high-profile Creatures Crew – a muralist/graffiti artists group that host collaborators and fellow artists from around the country. You can find some of their work gracing the walls behind The Klamm Shell in Bessemer, or the alleyway outside of Shamrock Brewing Co.
In 2015, local muralist Mathew Taylor hosted The High Desert Mural Fest here in Pueblo. And along the Arkansas River levee used to be the longest mural in the world as officially declared by the Guinness Book of World Records. The mural ran for three miles along the levee up until around four years ago, when the City of Pueblo announced that a nearly $15 million construction project to address repairs to the levee would mean the destruction of the beloved mural that had been around since the 1970s. Efforts were made to preserve parts of the mural, but it ceases to maintain its world-record status.
Other recognizable murals in Pueblo include a large brown bear surrounded by flowers in the Central Plaza area (painted by Taylor and co artist Michael Strescino), the famous faces depicted outside the Pirate’s Cove, a horse stuck in a tree down on Main Street (that was actually commissioned by the city to commemorate the flood of 1921) and many others ranging from simple to more abstract designs. Some of these designs cross into graffiti territory, but retain an obvious component of artistry that keeps people of the community and city officials from calling for their removal.
Therein lies a point of debate surrounding the street art movement in Pueblo. When is street art considered vandalism? Where do we draw the line between approved artistic expression and illegal tagging?

Artist Mathew Taylor gives a guided talk in front of one of his murals during a 2018 Pueblo Mural Tour. (Photo: Ashley Lowe for PULP)


Taylor is firm in his belief that legal graffiti art murals deter the practice of illegal graffiti tagging. In his perspective, the artistic drive that goes into composing a mural commands a certain degree of respect. Tagging for the sake of staking a territorial claim is distinguishably less driven by artistic vision and marked by its hurried or moreover careless appearance. Thus completed murals tend not to be vandalized by gang-related tagging in his experience. In t…
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Music

Acoustic heartbreak in the Colorado San Juans with John Statz

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John Statz by Veronica Holyfield

Songs about heartbreak should resinate. And with John Statz they do. They’re equally soft and striking. His new full-length album “Darkness on the San Juans,” available May 11, takes an acoustic turn from his other recent work. Then, he had full bands in studios. With this project, he gathered a few friends in his living room to record. Like heartbrea…

!– BEGIN THEIA POST SLIDER —

Songs about heartbreak should resinate. And with John Statz they do. They’re equally soft and striking.
His new full-length album “Darkness on the San Juans,” available May 11, takes an acoustic turn from his other recent work. Then, he had full bands in studios. With this project, he gathered a few friends in his living room to record.
Like heartbreak itself, the album is more personal, more raw and more intimate. The Wisconsin native who now calls Denver home said he hasn’t done something quite as stripped down in a while, and when it came to get back into songwriting after the release of his last album last summer, there was also a reason to write.
It was the aftermath of a breakup.
“We retrace our steps. We look at what we thought we knew. We ultimately discover and face the truth under the stories we told ourselves along the way,” he says of the album.
In addition to the post-love songs, the album features a few songs Statz previously worked on but didn’t have a place on an album, and songs that are meant to be more acoustic. “Presidential Valet” is the story of Armistead, President John Tyler’s valet, or slave, who died alongside seven others in an explosion after Tyler and members of cabinet were watching the firing of the “peacemaker” in 1844.

So, this album is about heartbreak. Did that change how you wrote or approached the album at all?

Yeah. It just kind of comes out more — I don’t know — when you’re writing about heartbreak it’s just seems like the easiest type of writing. It’s just pouring out of you. You don’t have to come up with a concept or a story or any of that.

In the bio you released ahead of this album, it references a pretty famous Ernest Hemingway quotation: “Write hard and clear about what hurts.” Maybe as a writer I hear about this all of the time, but there’s definitely a writing style associated with Hemingway — to write very concise and clear. Did you take any of that with you into the songwriting or was it all about the emotion?

You know, it was the emotion part. I didn’t think about that, but the songs are fairly concise and short. So I appreciate that might also be relevant there even though I didn’t intend that.

The title of this album is “Darkness on the San Juans.” Explain that a little bit.

It’s a line in the song “Highways.” Geographical references are all over my songwriting. On every album I’ve ever written. So it’s a song about driving places with someone and either ending up back at those places later and having other memories being their previously. The San Juans was one of those locations that was important.

Why do you think you end up writing about places so much?

I mean, an obvious answer is that I spend a lot of time driving around to gigs, and I’ve been a lot of places because of that. And just for fun. I love roadtripping around Colorado, and camping and that sort of thing. So it’s not a planned thing. I’m living and breathing this lifestyle from A to B to C and that infiltrates the writing. But also, it’s a convenient rhyming scheme. Sometimes it can be hard to find a word, but there’s usually a city that will fill in.

How long did it take you to finish this album, being that the concept is fairly raw?

It all happened pretty fast. The two non-heartbreak songs, “Presidential Valet” and “Old Men Drinking Seagrem’s,” were older. They’re social commentary tunes. But I just hadn’t recorded them to yet and I was waiting for an acoustic album to do that. I started writing in the summer. I decided in December to record them. I called my friend Nate, flew him out in January. And we recorded it in three days in my living room.

Had you recorded like that before?

It’s been a while, but yeah. My first couple albums that I made when I lived i…
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Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you can change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.
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One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you can change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.

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