By Nancy Peterson
Special to The Sopris Sun
I was birding at the Carbondale Nature Park with my mentor, Roaring Fork Audubon Society Chair Mary Harris. I mentioned the wonderful National Audubon Society’s bird murals in New York City. “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a bird mural in Carbondale?” She proceeded to tell me about her stymied efforts to make that vision a reality. I asked Mary for her emails and paperwork to see if I could revive our shared vision.
As luck would have it, in April the Carbondale Creative District and Carbondale Arts invited artists to apply to create two new murals at the roundabout at Highway 133. Now, all I had to do was find a muralist to apply for the contest!
My Carbondale friend, Shannon Muse of Paradise Art Glass, suggested a local mural artist, Gabriela Mejia of GEMart Mayan Muse. Shannon Muse, Mayan Muse? That sounded like a good sign. Gabriela was excited about the mural project and applied, but wasn’t chosen.
Next, I contacted some Carbondale building owners. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a wall; I hit a wall.
Then I asked the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce, located at the Third Street Center, to inform its members that I was looking for a mural location. The Chamber suggested I contact Colin Laird, director of the Third Street Center.
I know Colin from my days of volunteering for the Mindful Life Program, also housed at the center. Additionally, I interacted with him in my role as a steering committee member of the Carbondale Age-Friendly Community Initiative, which held its community assembly at the center in November 2019.
I was over the moon when Colin responded enthusiastically to my email inquiry. Fast forward and fast work, we have a location for our mural! It will grace the center’s wall near Lift-Up.
The nine-foot by 16-foot mural will highlight native birds and plants, local scenery and a cat. A cat? Yes, I’m an ailurophile to the max. As portrayed on the mural, this cat has an important lesson for cat and bird lovers alike: keeping your cat indoors protects the cat as well as the birds.
Before I retired in 2015, I worked as a registered veterinary technician, trained dogs for people with disabilities other than blindness and managed cat programs for The Humane Society of the United States, the nation’s largest animal protection organization.
Two months after retiring, my sister, Judie Blanchard, visited Carbondale and bought property in Hendrick Ranch. We designed our house, which includes a kitten foster room, and landscaped the property with lots of native plants for the birds, bees, butterflies and bugs.
I recently applied for Habitat Hero Garden certification for our property after taking Audubon Rockies’s wonderful free webinar on native plants. I proudly display the plaque at 905 Melissa Lane. I even wrote an article for The Sopris Sun about native plants because I was so inspired to help the creatures who depend on them.
Since moving here, I’ve participated in Audubon Christmas Bird Counts and the Great Backyard Bird Count. However, it was during COVID and thanks to Mary that I became an avid birder. This spring and summer I participated in 20 free Roaring Fork Audubon field trips. The more I learn about birds and their struggle to survive, the more amazed and concerned I am. The many threats they face include cats that hunt, injure and kill birds.
I’m also concerned about cats. Dangers abound outdoors, especially this time of year when predators are teaching their young to hunt. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to create a stimulating indoor environment for pet cats, plus “catios” and walks with harnesses and leashes can provide safe time outdoors.
I’m so excited about THE MURAL and not just because our Jenny is the cat-model. I hope you’ll visit to watch the magic unfold as two Roaring Fork Audubon youth birders who are aspiring artists paint alongside Gabriela. I plan to get in some brushstrokes, and maybe you can too. We hope to begin painting in September. All we need is funding!
Please consider making a donation to Roaring Fork Audubon Society, a volunteer-run nonprofit (Roaring Fork Audubon Society, PO Box 1192, Carbondale, CO 81623) and write “for the mural” on the memo line. Funds received in excess of the mural’s cost will be used for conservation projects in our valley.
I hope the beautiful mural will inspire you and others to appreciate and protect birds and cats. I challenge other Audubon chapters to create similar murals in their communities. Art is a universal language, and a picture’s worth a thousand words.
Many purrs and peeps to everyone whose support is making this project possible.
Nancy Peterson is the former Community Cats Program Manager for The Humane Society of the United States, the nation’s largest animal protection organization. She currently fosters kittens for Colorado Animal Rescue and is a board member of two national nonprofits, Neighborhood Cats and The National Kitten Coalition.