It’s hard to miss the more than 40 murals scattered throughout Cortez, but finding information on the public works of art hasn’t been so easy.
That changed recently as the Cortez Public Arts Advisory Committee created and printed 2,000 “Murals of Cortez” brochures with information on 32 murals in Cortez, divided into five self-guided walking or driving tours.
Once the weather warms up and tourists flock to Mesa Verde National Park, they will have one more activity to do while in Cortez.
For residents old and new, the brochure provides a centralized resource with locations, artist names and background information on works of art that often go unnoticed.
CPAAC member Heidi Brugger came up with the idea for the brochure shortly after moving to Cortez in 2015. She said she had visited Gallup, New Mexico, and found little cards with information on murals there. In Cortez, she saw plenty of murals, but couldn’t find any information.
So, she started compiling that information herself. Brugger said she walked around town and took pictures of every mural she could find. She started talking to business owners and artists to track down as many details as possible.
A couple of years later, in late 2017, the Cortez City Council created the Cortez Public Arts Advisory Committee. Brugger was appointed to the committee and worked with CPAAC Chairwoman Sonja Horoshko to come up with walking tours and the brochure.
“Part of the reason I wanted to be on Public Arts Advisory Committee is that I feel it’s really important for art to be completely accessible and free for the people in the community,” Brugger said.
Horoshko said CPAAC selected 32 murals in town and broke them down into four, eight-block walking tours and one, 3-mile driving tour.
“After walking the city and figuring out how we can keep it manageable, because not everybody is a young millennial able to walk the whole city, we broke them into about eight-block tours so it’s manageable for everyone,” Horoshko said.
She said the committee tried to position the beginning and end of tours where people could get for a cup of coffee or stop at a trading post.
“It’s really in support of the businesses in town that are on those tours,” Horoshko said. “You don’t want to ignore the businesses either.”
The origins of the dozens of murals throughout Cortez varies.
Some residents simply paint a mural on the side of their home while some local businesses, like Notah Dineh Trading Co., have commissioned artists to paint their buildings. Most murals are private projects, but, according to information in the brochure, the city of Cortez from 2009 to 2018 has commissioned eight murals, mostly facing east and west on Main Street, intended in part to calm traffic.
Brugger said part of the allure of murals is that they don’t last forever — and there are plenty of murals tucked away in residential alleys in town.
“What I think people need to appreciate is you should get out and see the murals we have now because murals are ephemeral,” she said.
Since she began photographing and documenting murals back in 2015, Brugger said she knows of at least two murals that have disappeared. One was replaced with a new mural and another was simply painted over with a plain color.
“It’s something that’s going to change the way the community changes, and it’s an interesting barometer for who we are,” Brugger said.
Hard copies of the brochure can be found at the Cortez Public Library, City Hall and at the Colorado Welcome Center at Cortez. Brugger said most business with murals will be stocked with brochures as well.