There are plenty of pretty sights to enjoy in downtown Boulder, from the foothills rising up above the city to the west, to the numerous flowerbeds on the Pearl Street Mall.
If you find yourself on the northeast corner of 14th and Walnut Streets searching for some scenery on which to fix your gaze, you might be best served tilting your head back to look straight up.
There, on the ceiling of the two-story high outdoor overhang for the Continental Building, 1401 Walnut St., artist Brooke Reidt this week completed a huge, elaborate and colorful mural.
The patterned piece, in shades of blue, green and orange, encompasses the entire ceiling of outdoor overhang and continues beyond the glass entryway onto the ceiling of the building's main lobby. It stands out in stark contrast to the 30-year-old Continental's dull brownish exterior, and jumps out at passersby on the sidewalk.
"I've always worked pretty large scale, but I've been trying to work in more public spaces," Reidt, sporting black sneakers with the various paint shades of her piece all over them, said Tuesday as she prepared to add some final brushstrokes.
"I've been trying to keep headphones in because it's distracting to stop and talk to everyone who walks up, but I feel like the feedback has been pretty positive."
John Reynolds, who bought the Continental Building in October, commissioned Reidt for the ceiling mural after hearing about her through Boulder-based architects, Arch11, the firm he hired to remodel the interior of the office building. He said he considers the piece a means to give back to the community even though it is technically on private property. He likes the "organic" feel of the piece against the building's brutalist architecture.
"I love it," he said. "We wanted something strong enough to hold up against the building but soft enough to kind of juxtapose and compliment it too."
Reynolds declined to say what he paid Reidt for the work but noted he has invested about $2 million in the building since he bought it last year.
Reidt said she arrived in Boulder on July 7 and spent at least 12 hours on a lift or scaffold painting nearly every day until she completed the mural on Tuesday.
She said she did not submit any plans for the piece in advance.
While the long hours bent over backwards were no doubt difficult, perhaps the most impressive part of Reidt's process for the piece is she did not tape-out her complex design before painting, relying instead on a 1-inch flatbrush to make her initial lines.
"I don't have a picture in my head of something before I paint," she said. "I want it to make a connection with the building and the space, just spending time and letting it evolve."
The Bali, Indonesia-based artist theorized that the final product probably had something to do with her surroundings back home.
"We're constantly inspired by what we see, so I'm sure I'm influenced by living in the jungle," she said, adding that the mural reminded her of the Mandala symbolism that originated in Hinduism and Buddhism. "I wanted it to emit that positive energy."
David Campbell, the chief security officer for SendGrid, the email delivery and management service that rents space in the Continental Building, called the mural "brilliant" and said he really likes the addition to the "Cold War" structure.
"Having this painting really brings it to life," he said.
Mark May is a corporal with Colorado Security Services, a private firm that patrols a portion of downtown Boulder. He also spoke highly of the mural, which he watched it evolve as Reidt worked on it.
"We come down here every day and every day it gets better and better," he said. "I'd like to see more stuff like this, honestly."
It's not the first time Reynolds has commissioned a large painting on the exterior of one of his buildings. A 120-foot wall on the side of the building at 1904 Pearl St. is adorned by an eye-catching pink and purple design created by New York street artist Dalek.
Matt Chasansky, Boulder's arts and cultural services manager, said ways in which private property owners can be encouraged to do as Reynolds has done and enhance the visual landscape in public places have been a hot topic in the public art sphere lately. He said municipal codes often impact what property owners are allowed to do, but city officials can be strategic in encouraging people to take risks on art that resides on the boundary of private and public.
"I think the mural is fantastic and will just contribute to the idea that we are all working together on the visual environment in Boulder," he said. "And this is something we really should be working together on and making a tool for positive things happening in town."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Joe Rubino at 303-473-1328 or firstname.lastname@example.org