Visual Arts

Artist/doctor Jetsonorama begins rural public art project today in Byers

Rural farm communities like Byers aren't usually known for public art. M12, a local art collective, wants to change that by helping artists complete projects in small towns. This weekend, artist Jetsonorama will complete an installation as part of M12's Action on the Plains. He'll put up wheat paste pieces that incorporate the history of the Turecek family farm in Byers.

"The Turecek family has been a farming family for four generations," explains M12 program director Kirsten Stoltz. "Joe Turecek was interested in letting us use the farm buildings for a project. Jetsonorama will be looking at the family history and using the images of the family in his wheat pastings."

Stolz explains that M12's mission is to breathe new life into the struggling and sometimes emptying landscape of Colorado small towns. "What we're interested in is how we as artists can engage in these communities and build projects that can activate areas that are kind of desolate and are struggling with people leaving the communities," says Stolz. "On a more holistic level, we're approaching art so it's not just one object that sits in a place and has no context but that is about that place and in that place. It's brings a closer tie to what's going on in these communities."

M12 connects three to five artists a year with rural communities, and Jetsonorama (also known as Chip Thomas) has his own connection to small communities -- he's also a doctor on a Navajo reservation in Arizona, and recently finished directing an art project there. He looks forward to his work this weekend, and explains that artwork can bring an opportunity for growth.

"I started doing this type of project in the Navajo nation, and I wanted to use art as a tool," he says. "This project is an extension of that concept. It's an opportunity to tell a story that wouldn't normally be told in a small place like Byers, and bring people together."

Jetsonorama and Stoltz both say the goal of Action on the Plains corresponds with the goal of the M12 project, as a whole, which is to connect art with places and people that normally wouldn't have access. Whether people see the wheat pastings go up this weekend, or drive past them in the future, the idea is that viewers will be looking at a town they might normally look past. And that concentration drives growth.

"I've worked and lived in the Navajo nation," says Jetsonorama. "The community is very remote and isolated. The response to the art projects out there has been phenomenal. It's a wonderful surprise to people, to see art where they normally wouldn't, and without the competition of other images, or ads. To have a big black and white pasting in a rural setting is powerful, and poignant."

Jetsonorama starts working today and completes the project this weekend. For more information, visit the M12 web page.

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Tiffany Fitzgerald