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A new generation of artists bring color to Pueblo’s levee

In 2018, the countless murals along the Arkansas River canal was lost to the city of Pueblo. The levee was falling apart, and needed to be replaced.

Starting in October of 2020, artists from across the state began descending on the blank canal to begin anew.

"I love seeing people with fresh ideas, and new ideas," said Cynthia Ramu, the Levee Mural Project Coordinator in Pueblo. "People willing to take the challenge and collaborate together."

The Pueblo Conservancy District is trying to cover 2.8 miles of canal with artwork. Ramu says filling just 90% of the canal with murals would set the record for the largest outdoor mural gallery in the world. A record that was lost to Pueblo when the old levee had to be replaced.

"We have an opportunity to take it back and that is our mission and we are going to paint until we get there," said Ramu.

So far, seven murals are completed while 29 more murals are currently in the works. The latest mural to be completed along the canal just finished up on Sunday.

The mural is called 'Wahatoya', a fitting name for an original Southern Colorado piece. The mural is inspired by the Spanish Peaks located in Huerfano County.

"(Wahatoya) is an indigenous term for Spanish Peaks, it means double mountain," said Jenn de Groot, the artist behind the latest mural to be finished along the levee. "I’ve hiked West Spanish Peak five or six times now. It’s just something I’ve done every year since I’ve moved to Pueblo, and it’s  good check in for myself. I love these mountains they are absolutely beautiful. They have the most beautiful sunrise I could imagine."

De Groot says dozens of people have come out to help her paint the mural along the canal. It took her crew 8 days to finish the project.

The 25-year old Pueblo artist moved to the area back in 2015, and its been her dream to paint a mural of this size since she was a kid. De Groot's ultimate goal is to become a professional painter. The Wahatoya mural is her first large step in that direction.

World records are nice, but for de Groot and her crew, the murals mean so much more.

"Our goal is to get the artwork back on the levee," said de Groot. "We want to beautify our city and make this part of Pueblo the most beautiful part of Pueblo.”

If you'd like to apply to have your own artwork on the Arkansas River canal go to Pueblolevee.org. Submissions are reviewed once every month.

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Dan Beedie

Dan is a reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about Dan here.

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