A community’s artwork usually is found hanging on walls. In Pueblo‚ the most visible artwork is a wall.
The Arkansas River levee is the canvas for the Pueblo Levee Mural Project‚ a 3-mile-long piece of artwork that holds the Guinness Book of World Records’ distinction as being the world’s largest continuous painting. Not bad for something that began 30 years ago as isolated graffiti and was not exactly embraced by the community at large.
The mural got its start when a group of CSU-Pueblo students painted the graffiti-like artwork‚ but soon other artists got on board and different areas of the wall began to brighten up with individual visions. Over time‚ the pieces have merged together‚ making the levee a continuous tapestry of shapes‚ colors and images.
For Cynthia Ramu‚ coordinator of the project‚ it was love at first sight and enjoyable work ever since.
“I knew of the levee and in 1987 hooked up with the people working on it then so I could do my own mural‚” Ramu says. “But I have a fear of heights‚ so I took it not only as an artistic project but also a giant challenge just to get over that fear and up on that wall.”
Ramu and countless others have conquered that fear‚ and the ever-expanding levee has become a draw for artists from all over. The individual paintings feature a wide variety of subjects and showcase myriad styles‚ making any segment of the wall itself an education in art and culture‚ as well as a piece of regional history.
“In 1991‚ I was given a grant to do a history of CF&I Steelworks‚ which was 120 feet long by 65 feet tall‚” Ramu says. “When it was finished‚ a lot of retired steelworkers came to the dedication and were so grateful they weren’t forgotten.”
That piece merged Ramu’s interest in history with her art‚ two things she continues to integrate with her work on the wall. Recently she has been working with at-risk young women to create a piece of the wall dedicated to the history of women.
“They were afraid of the wall at first‚ but by the second day it was a challenge for them‚” Ramu says. “And they get powerful when they get on the wall. They touch it‚ and they become very determined. I saw a lot of growth with these girls during this project.”
In addition to being striking public art‚ the mural also is educational. Many schools bring students out to study the artwork and to work on areas that need repair. It’s community involvement like this that will keep the project going long after every inch has been covered.
“When people are working in one spot‚ another is fading or deteriorating‚” Ramu says. “The wall is 3.5 miles long‚ and we’ve only covered 1.5 miles of consecutive space. There’s a lot to fill in‚ and right now we’re trying to break another record by adding another 55‚000 feet of art.”
Story by Joe Morris
Photo by Antony Boshier
There are many places to take pictures of this mural since it is 3 miles long. Only a short portion is shown in the picture. In the river is the city's kayaking course.
Murals are considered temporary on the levee as it's considered fair game to paint one over to put another one there.