Your art here! The Glenwood Springs Arts and Culture Board will choose 10 artists to paint mini-murals on the sides of these mobile meeting and eating pods. Photo by Raleigh Burleigh

What the heck is a Topek?

“The design and intent is inspired by the Inuit Topek house,” explains Blackhound Design Company. “It is a place that encourages gathering and community between people.”

As dining stretched outside to allow for social distancing in 2020, the city of Glenwood Springs purchased five Topeks from Blackhound Design Company to provide a little intimate shelter for visitors and residents alike.

Now, the city is seeking to beautify these little structures with a call for artists, as part of its 2021 Public Art Master Plan. 

“Art and culture are vital to a healthy, thriving and just community,” Arts Supervisor Annie Henninger told The Sopris Sun. “The city recognizes that.” Her work is overseen by the Glenwood Springs Arts and Culture Board and falls under the city’s recreation department.

According to Henninger, Glenwood Springs Recreation Manager Steve Frederick broadly defines “recreation” as “what we do as individuals to increase the quality of our lives.” 

Along with a growing commitment to promoting the arts, Glenwood Springs has moved its recreation staff into the old hydroelectric plant, built in 1888 to power Walter B. Devereux’s vision for a resort-based city. 

The building was lovingly repurposed by the Glenwood Springs Arts Council beginning in 1989. Initially leasing the building from the city for ten dollars per year, the nonprofit renovated the space with offices and studio/classrooms, thanks to grants from the city, Colorado Historical Society and Gates and Boettcher foundations, in addition to its own fundraising.

The council later lost the space, in 2017, when accusations of misdemeanor theft against the nonprofit’s executive director, Christina Brusig, prompted City Council to end its financial support and the building’s lease. Brusig was eventually ordered to complete 50 hours of community service, pay a $2,000 fine and write apology letters. After fulfilling those conditions, the case was dismissed.

The Glenwood Springs Arts Council now operates out of a space, 616 Sixth Street, just up the road.

The “Better Together” mini-mural initiative was dreamed up by John Carr, a member of the city’s Arts and Culture Board. Carr is a nationally-recognized muralist himself, and was involved with the 100 Gates Mural Project in Brooklyn, New York. This consisted of artists enlivening the roll-down security gates at stores to turn their streets into after-hours, open-air galleries.

Ten muralists will be selected to decorate the side of a Topek. The four-foot by five-foot canvases can be painted with acrylics, spray paint or a combination of the two. Chosen artists will each receive $550 and must supply their own materials. Garfield County residents at least 16 years of age can apply online by 11:59 p.m. on April 29.

Additional details can be found at www.bit.ly/TopekArt.

To learn more about the city’s arts initiatives, including an open house at the old hydroelectric building on June 4, visit www.glenwoodrec.com and click on the “Arts & Culture” tab.

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