Longmont’s downtown artists are turning grey, stone barricades into their own stylish canvases in hopes of attracting pedestrians who are now considered the lifeblood of a sagging Main Street.
The artists were recruited by the Longmont Downtown Development Authority to draw signature murals on the barricades, erected last week as the city closed a lane of Main Street in either direction between Third and Sixth avenues.
Downtown officials hope the lane closures allow restaurants and shops to spread outside into the street to meet social distancing requirements.The move was made to slow vehicle traffic and bring more foot traffic into a downtown area leveled by a quick downturn of business due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s about time Longmont did something like that,” said Heidi Quince, owner of Simply Bulk at 416 Main St. “They had to do something. Now people have room to walk a little bit more and they can bring their bikes downtown and park them. We see this as a good thing.”
The barricade art, Quince said, brightens up the line of dreary, cold concrete that now lines Main Street.
“It gives it a less of an industrial feel,” Quince said. “It gives people something nice to look at and talk about.”
The barricade project was made possible through a $10,000 grant from Colorado Creative Industries, which was further matched by the LDDA, said Mersadi McClure, LDDA’s creative district coordinator and AmeriCorps VISTA.
Part of the grant has been used to fund #Strongmont Creates grant, and now the Bigger Hearts, Stronger Streets Barricade Art project. Through the Longmont Creative District Advisory Committee, local art organizations like Firehouse Arts Center, and Downtown Longmont businesses, the LDDA contacted 18 local artists to work on the barricades, McClure said.
The mural painting is just phase one of the project, she said, as the LDDA plans to have a painter paint the remaining barricades to the corresponding block colors Downtown, she said. The group is also working on plans to feature art from community members through wheat-pasting.
The barricade project has helped Longmont’s artistic community on two fronts, McClure said.
“It’s been very exciting to highlight the artistic spirit and creatives in our local Longmont community, while also assisting many who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.
Joyanna Rose Gittings is the owner of Obra Arts Studio in Longmont’s downtown Old Town Marketplace. COVID-19 ruined her planned grand opening of her standalone studio and her hopes to teach budding artists.
The barricade project provides her an outlet for her work in watercolors and to promote discussion.
“I mean that is what art is all about,” Gittings said. “It brings people out to check things out and gets people talking and thinking. That is the definition of art.”
Gittings squatted in front of the barricade and began painting and sketching an outline of a mural she started earlier in the day. A tray sat next to her, lined with bright, colorful markers and brushes. She already drew the name of her business in an elegant stroke along the stark, barren stonewall.
“Yeah, I think it already looks pretty good,” Gittings said.
Longmont’s downtown arts community began organizing the barricade project late last week after being contacted by LDDA, Gittings said.
“They told us to be creative, and brighten up downtown,” she said. Artists can produce their work on 20 spots along the barricades, where they can announce their business location. The rest of the stone will be highlighted in a solid color, she said.
T-May The Artist — also known as Tanya — created her own design on the barricade next to her new business, Insomnia Blues Arts and Crafts.
“It looks like the best way to show all my contact info,” Tanya said. “Put on this piece of concrete and let the people see who I am.”