Activism

New Louisville Social Justice Mural Depicts Mining Town's History

The mural will be unveiled on Saturday, July 23.
The mural will be unveiled on Saturday, July 23. Classrooms for Climate Action
A new mural is being unveiled Saturday, July 23, in Louisville. Painted by Adri Norris, who helped create the Black Lives Matter mural on Broadway in 2020, this mural will depict a part of the mining town's often disregarded history.

When a sustainability-themed mural in Louisville was tagged with "Black Lives Matter" in 2020, the Boulder-based Classrooms for Climate Action began to raise funds for a new mural that would concentrate on social justice as well as sustainability. "There is so much intersectionality around antiracism, environmental justice, Indigenous knowledge and climate solutions, so it becomes a really easy thing to integrate and bring to students," says CCA executive director Tiffany Boyd.

Norris was brought in to collaborate on ideas with the children taught by CCA, a group comprised of retired and working teachers, community members and college students. The project took just over a year and six months to research and fund. "We were just thrilled that [Norris] was able to do this mural for our community," says Boyd.

"Originally, the kids had a hard time finding a connection between environment and race," Norris says, but they eventually landed on the subject matter. The mural depicts the forced exile of Native Americans, mining labor struggles, environmental challenges and Louisville's fight for greater diversity, equity and inclusion through education.

The Ute, Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes occupied the land that would become Louisville after the discovery of gold in 1858 and coal in the 1860s. Even though the land had been protected by government treaties, the tribes were forcibly removed from the area by 1877. In 1882, Louisville was incorporated.

What was once a land filled with Indigenous people has now been reduced to a population with fewer than 0.2 percent Native residents.

Despite the economic prosperity that came from the town's mining efforts, the social and environmental impacts could not be shaken. Labor strife was a major problem, as immigrants and new settlers provided cheap labor and then had to fight for fair treatment. One of the most famous fights for workers rights' was the Columbine Mine strike of 1927, in which six miners were killed and dozens were injured by the Colorado militia. These strikes are depicted in the middle of the mural.

Back in 2020, a task force was created to see how the community could make the lives of its minority population better. This included having the libraries bring in books that covered topics such as diversity, equity and inclusion. The mural incorporates this element of the town's efforts, rendering people clambering up the sides of various books written about a variety of different marginalized groups.

The mural also includes a quote from activist Ava Hamilton, a descendent of Chief Niwot of the Arapaho Nation, that states: "One of the things we're advocating for is to include the teaching of our histories into public education." Hamilton, whose portrait is shown on the mural, has been an instrumental advocate for Indigenous rights in Colorado and around the nation.

Norris spent seven weeks creating the mural, which is one of the largest she's done. She hopes it will give the non-white residents of Louisville the feeling of "acknowledgment, and hopefully a representation of themselves," she says.

Norris adds that she wants the piece to demonstrate the real history of the town, and inspire residents to make "decisions that would make Louisville more inclusive and welcoming."

The mural will be unveiled from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday, July 23, at a free ceremony (with pizza!) at 637 Front Street, Louisville, At 5 p.m., there will be comments from Adri Norris, Mayor Ashley Stolzmann and activist Ava Hamilton.
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