Last week, Shannon Galpin, a human rights activist and artist who lives in the Summit County town of Frisco, was frantically gathering a special asphalt paint while reaching out to artists across the state.
Although her work often takes her across the globe, this time she was organizing an action in her own community.
The town of Frisco, population 3,200, had agreed to close Main Street for two days so that she and her recruits could paint a large mural on the street, right in front of the Town Hall.
When she first had the idea, she thought the town wouldn’t allow it, so she had prepared to block the road illegally.
But, she was wrong. On July 10, the town council authorized the mural and agreed to close the street. They even provided the funds to buy the paint
In a statement of support, the Town Council said:
“We, the Frisco Town Council, together with the Town Manager, leadership team, and our Frisco Police Department, support equity for all. We acknowledge that local government is uniquely positioned to call attention to and assist in dismantling the systemic impacts of racism and inequity; therefore, inclusivity is a core value and goal of the Town of Frisco. We are committed to creating a positive, welcoming environment where every member of our community, including our guests, feels supported and at home.”
Council member Dan Fallon, a longtime resident of Frisco, says that he’s received many calls and emails about the mural. Although the feedback has mostly been positive, there have been some unhappy citizens.
“But that’s the point – the conversation. It’s such an important one to have, uncomfortable for sure. Even though we don’t see the overt manifestations of the racism or this kind of violence in our community, it does not mean that systemically we can’t work to make this better.” Fallon said.
The bold colored mural will fade overtime. Galpin hopes that it will last through the spring.
The artists were joined by community members and painted through the morning of July 15, stopping a few times for rain. The artists had creative control over each of the 16 letters, and the result is a vibrant mural.
The participating artists include:
- Gregg Deal - Colorado Springs
- Johnny Draco and Amy Johnson – Realize-Denver
- Pat Milbery – So Gnar Creative Devision – Denver/Breckenridge
- Aaron Sutton – Denver
- Kellie Rogers – Silverthorne
- Piotr Olimpiusz Kopytek – Frisco
- Devon Galpin Clarke – Frisco/Breckenridge
- Jaime and Patti Callahan and family – Frisco
- Shannon Galpin – Frisco
- Heidi Sodetz and Robyn Cornwell with local students
- Olivia Brown Wolf and Olivia
- Tim McCall
- Nam and Tom Lang
- Piotr Olimpiusz Kopytek
- Consuelo Redhorse
- Patrick Gleason and family
- Tracy - ‘Panamanian artist’
- Elyse Hope
- Devon Galpin Clarke
- Fred Newcomer
Consuelo Redhorse, who was elected to the Frisco School Board last November, participated in creating the letter “M”, which honors missing and indigenous women. Redhorse says her sister was sexually assaulted and murdered and she hopes the mural raises awareness.
She says she feels solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement because systemic racism affects all people of color. Although she feels welcome in Summit County, she says the movement is giving her courage to tell her story.
Galpin believes that the ethnically diverse portion of Summit County's population today is about 35%, including Hispanics, African and Native Americans, as well as immigrants and refugees.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the county's population as of 2019 was 81.5% non-Hispanic white, 14.6% Hispanic, 1.5% Asian and 1.4% black.
Below is a statement from Galpin released by the town:
"This mural installation is a statement of solidarity with Black Lives Matter in an effort to address the systemic racism that exists in mountain communities and throughout the outdoor industry and thereby, throughout the outdoors. I am proud to bring together this group of Colorado based artists that have a connection to anti-racism work and the outdoors together to install this mural alongside our local community members to help normalize, and destigmatize the words “Black Lives Matter” and raise awareness of the systemic racism that exists in our community as we work together to dismantle it in our community.
The outdoor community and the outdoor industry has a racism problem. The industry is facing this head on in a variety of ways, I’ve seen it evolve at Outdoor Retailer over the past two years, where brands are being called to task by the diversity pledge created by Teresa Baker, and groups like Outdoor Afro, Brown Girls Climb, and Natives Outdoors have become integral to the conversation in what was predominantly white spaces. This isn’t new for those of us working in human rights, social justice and the outdoor industry, but it is for the average mountain community resident who recreates and lives but doesn’t work with brands and sit on panel discussions within the industry. Mountain towns are the host of the those who recreate and benefit from the dollars spent, but rarely want to create waves of discussion around social justice, it disrupts the idyllic vibe we are trying to create here.
You want proof of racism in the outdoors? How about climbing routes with the names ‘Slant Eyes, Slavery Wall, Happiness in Slavery, Smack that Bitch up, and Lynch Mob“ That is simply the easiest and most specific example of outdoor racism in a discussion of which there are thousands, but that is a discussion for another time. I have been honored to work with and align brands like National Geographic Adventure, The Explorer’s Club, Outside, Patagonia, Osprey Packs, Liv Cycling, and Skratch Labs among others, as a brand ambassador, a writer, a filmmaker, and speaker, and watching the evolution and navigation of these discussions and topics with these brands and others over the past twelve years has been a challenge, a lesson, an honor, and sometimes disappointment.
Not everyone who lives in our community goes home every night feeling safe in our community because of the color of their skin or the language the speak. Not everyone in our community feels accepted as a member of our community even though they are a full-time resident. Not everyone in our community feels seen because of their skin color, their sexual preference, their immigration status, or their accent. Not everyone in this community has the same experience of “Welcome to Frisco” as white people do. This is not new. The open discussion and protesting in our community thanks to our youth being more outspoken and groups forming like Solidarity Nation, is.
As brands continue pivot their marketing and their ambassadorship roles to Black, brown, indigenous people of color, and LGBTQ representatives, and the brands and outdoor groups themselves are created by and run by the BIPOC community itself, our communities need to be more aware that we do not, and should not try to, live in a bubble. We should strive to be inclusive, diverse, and welcoming to all our community members, close to 35-40% of which are not white. We are already a community of Black, Hispanic, refugee, immigrant, and Native Americans that live here full time. We need these conversations but more importantly, we need leadership and policy changes at all levels that understands the language of race, diversity, representation, and inclusion.
I’m am incredibly proud of our Frisco Town Council and our Mayor for standing in solidarity with this installation to recognize that Black Lives Matter is the civil rights movement of our time, and to openly say that they are be willing to be held accountable by our community knowing this mural is not the action, this is only a visual statement. Action equals policy changes.
We recognize together that the civil rights and Black social justice leaders of our past; Harriet Tubman, MLK, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, are not historical figures to admire and leave in the past as relics of a bygone era. They marched, they protested, they were attacked, they fought back to change policy and laws for future generations. If they were alive, they would be leading today’s Black Lives Matter marches and organizing communities to do the same. This movement is about human rights and women’s rights and civil rights. Democracy is fought for every day by every generation to improve upon it, to evolve it as needed, and to ensure it isn’t chipped away at. We, as a community, are the best of each other when we recognize we all belong here, and we all deserve to be seen equally and for our voices to be heard equally.
Thanks to the support of the Town and to our police department for supporting the road closures allow us to safely create a one-of-a-kind Black Lives Matter mural that reflects our mountain community with a diverse group of Colorado artists that shows our solidarity with the Black and BIPOC community and challenges other mountain communities across the country to do the same."