Tunnel transformation in the works

Photo courtesy of Rock Springs Main Street The City of Rock Springs Art Underground Gallery has been a popular addition to the downtown.

Photo courtesy of Rock Springs Main Street
The City of Rock Springs Art Underground Gallery has been a popular addition to the downtown.

By Trudy Balcom

tbalcom@rawlinstimes.com

RAWLINS — You don’t have to look far in Rawlins to find public art. There’s the murals. The antelope. The hawk sculptures.

But among the most industrial and least aesthetic public spaces in the city are the pedestrian tunnels that link the city’s Southside with the downtown.

An initiative underway by the City of Rawlins aims to transform these drab concrete tubes into a public art gallery of great works from local artists.

The goal of the project is simple.

“It’s just to make that area nice, and show the talents of the people of Rawlins,” said Patti Hays, the city’s superintendent of recreation. “That area has slowly been developed, it’s much more pleasant.”

Hays said that for this first phase, the art project will take on one side of the Washington Street pedestrian tunnel — soon to become the Washington Street Gallery.

“It’s a busy walking tunnel, there’s skateboarders, it a huge connector,” Hays said.

In addition, the Washington Street tunnel is officially part of the Continental Divide Trail’s route through Rawlins, Hays said.

The city is currently accepting applications from artists of all ages. Anyone can apply for a two-foot by four-foot “canvas” of plywood. There is no cost to get a “canvas.”

Hays said there are still some “canvasses” available. Artists can fill out an application at the Family Rec Center and pick up a “canvas” during regular hours. A total of 16 canvasses are available for this first round.

Hays said that in mid-September, after the art is installed in the tunnel, a public reception will be held to invite residents out to see the new gallery. At the reception, visitors will be able to vote for their favorites. The winner of the people’s choice award will receive a $200 prize.

Hays plans to repeat the process in November, when another 16 “canvasses” will be available to fill up the other side of the tunnel to complete the gallery.

A gallery for the west side pedestrian tunnel near Martinez Park is under consideration.

There are a few guidelines artists must follow. The art must be the original work of the artist, and the subject depicted must be suitable for all ages. Any medium or theme is welcome and Hays said that the use of bright colors is encouraged in order to enliven the tunnel space. The tunnel is a harsh environment for art, so two coats of marine-grade primer are recommended as a starter. The artist and the title of each piece will be identified with labels.

The deadline to submit a canvas is Sept. 1.

“It’s a fun project for me. There’s a lot of excitement when people come to pick up their plywood,” Hays said.

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