Our mission at Steamboat Pilot & Today is to connect communities, and we do this in many ways, including informing our audience with relevant news and information, connecting readers to advertisers so we can pay our bills, uniting people through community events or virtual forums and Suite.
And now, I’m thrilled to say that our Pilot & Today newsboxes have become visible platforms to connect anyone visiting downtown with some of the incredible artists and students who live and work here. Through an initiative called Project Hope, 22 downtown newspaper boxes were painted with themes of Steamboat Springs, Routt County and messages of hope.
These public works of art are the result of a six-month project involving Pilot & Today, Steamboat Creates, Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide (REPS), Grand Futures, Northwest Colorado Health, and local professional and student artists.
As you walk through the Downtown Creative District, you’ll see boxes painted in a wide variety of themes ranging from skateboards and landscapes to a bright yellow flower walking in the rain surrounded by people dressed in black holding umbrellas. It’s breathtaking work, and I’m thrilled that these newspaper racks have gone from simple distribution devices to points of inspiration for locals and visitors strolling downtown.
The initiative grew out of a similar public art project I was involved with ten years ago in California. I knew a lot of our Pilot & Today newspaper racks would need a refresh, so earlier this year I approached Kim Keith, Executive Director of Steamboat Creates, with the idea of collaborating with local artists. My initial thought was to paint the brackets with Steamboat themes that represented the landscape, culture and history of the community.
Keith went further and suggested adding a mental hope theme to the project’s mission would be especially important amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Celebrating the beauty, culture and history of Steamboat is one thing, but going the extra mile and providing visible encouragement to many in need was a no-brainer. This is how the HOPE project was born.
Keith brought local nonprofits together, secured funding, and connected half a dozen professional artists to work with local art students. Each of these artists – Cherie Duty, Jason Erwin, Johannah Hildebrand, Keri Searls, Marion Kahn and Tony Urbick – worked with a small group of students, with each rack serving a unique purpose. The artists brainstormed ideas and mapped out plans to transfer their vision to the newspaper boxes, whose angles and 360-degree “canvas” add new challenges and opportunities.
Meanwhile, Pilot & Today Broadcast Manager Amanda Sundberg has spent countless hours removing newspaper racks from their downtown spots, removing old windows, paint, graffiti, stickers and gum, then sanding, priming and repairing them. Only then did she truck them to the Depot Art Center, where Steamboat Creates is based, for the artists to get to work.
After each mount was painted, a coat of sealer was applied to help protect the art from the elements and graffiti. Sundberg then installed new plexiglass windows on each rack before returning them to the street for the public to enjoy.
“It was a lot of work, but it was worth it,” Sundberg said. “There is a wide variety of themes. There is a little something for everyone.
Sundberg was privileged to see each of the racks at their worst while they were being repaired and at their best after the artists had finished their work. His favorites include two that Duty worked on: a box at the community center that reminds him of a mix of Mount Werner and Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” and one with sunflowers on the corner of 11th and Yampa streets.
We are posting in-depth articles, photos and a map of the project in Explore, and an online component that will live on SteamboatPilot.com will include an interactive map with pins on each newspaper box, links to photos and information on artists. I encourage you to take the time to read about these artists and visit all 22 locations to capture all of their inspiring work.
I am grateful to everyone involved for helping Pilot & Today turn simple newspaper boxes into public art and seeds of inspiration. It’s nice to know that our Newsboxes now serve a dual purpose: to inform our readers and inspire our community.