There’s a bridge in Rifle that runs over a stream. On the two main support columns are two very different visual elements. On one side, mud smeared everywhere — graffiti style. On the other side? Rifle’s latest piece of public art.
“All I could think was like, ‘wow this is a very unique opportunity for kids in this area,’” said Mandy Klauck, art teacher at Rifle High School. She led a dozen students in creating Rifle’s newest art installation, an 80-foot-long mural called “Beyond the Screen.”
The project is a joint effort between Youth Zone and the Bookcliffs Arts Center in Rifle, with additional support coming through a $75,000 grant from the Embrey Family Foundation. Youth Zone picked students from Glenwood Springs to Parachute to come up with a concept and put brush to concrete.
The painting features diverse landscapes, including galaxies, greenery and three glass spheres, which address the main focus of the piece: too much of a focus on social media.
Kellianne Copeland, a Rifle High School student, worked on the piece. She said she sees people on dates using their phones, not talking to each other.
“They’re looking at their phones,” she said. “Shouldn’t you be looking at each other instead of ignoring each other?”
Although stepping into the art world isn’t something the group is known for, Klauck said the experiences for everyone involved were worth the time spent on the project.
Casandra Espino also helped with the painting and said even though the students come from different schools, it wasn’t difficult to work together and create new friendships.
“We started to sit down and eat lunch,” she said. “We started messing around joking. We connected. That’s how it helped us do this mural. We all had the same object going forward.”
The students were selected by Youth Zone through a written application process. The chosen students were each paid for their work, a benefit Klauck said made the project an easy draw for summering high schoolers.
Though some students hadn’t painted much at all before this experience, they are continuing their artistic development in colleges next year. Klauck said she hopes she had some influence in that decision — like a teacher she once had.
After two months of work, the mural’s completion was celebrated last night at a ceremony in Rifle.