There’s a blank canvas, and then there’s a blank wall.
For contemporary artist Bria Hammock, the latter presents much more of a challenge – but an exciting one.
“It’s much easier to paint over if I mess up on a canvas,” she said with a laugh. “My canvas work is really contemporary, with lots of layers of color, but my murals end up being much more graphic in nature, and I’m a graphic designer, so it feels like a really good transition. … It’s a much different creative process than my canvas work, but feels at home to me.”
Hammock is one of more than 30 artists signed up for this year’s Paint Slingers, Wyoming’s original street art festival, which event founder and director Eddie Fernandez said is going to be bigger than ever, thanks to a new partnership with West Edge Collective to help market the event.
This year’s festival hub will be at West Edge Collective’s 707 W. Lincolnway offices, where there will be various food trucks and live music in the parking lot, and several artists painting different exterior walls of the building.
The July 18-19 event includes artists from Cheyenne and the Front Range who will transform walls around downtown and the West Edge area (and one wall farther out at Bear Necessities, 914 E. Lincolnway). Attendees can watch these painters in action and occasionally have the chance to browse some smaller canvas works by artists who choose to set up a small booth next to their station, Fernandez said.
“I would say artists are always struggling, pandemic or not, but with the pandemic going on, this gives the artists an opportunity to bring out their work,” he said. “Guests will have the opportunity to purchase art, so that helps the artists out and helps people who are collecting.”
As a street artist himself, Fernandez said he created Paint Slingers five years ago to bring an awareness of urban art to Cheyenne.
“I think it can offer people a glimpse into the urban art culture,” he said. “I’m trying to promote urban public art. That’s what the whole backstory of Paint Slingers was, to bring that appreciation … it seems like every year it gets bigger and bigger, and so I think the idea of it being a viable art form is growing in Cheyenne.”
Fernandez will paint the north wall of West Edge Collective for the festival, and he said the first step will be taking photos of the wall and making a sketch or outline as a plan. Then he’ll make a digital rendering of that, merge the two together and use that as a reference when he takes out his brush on the first day of the event.
He’s usually known for his 3D lettering style, Fernandez said, but he also enjoys painting portraits, so he’ll likely merge those two interests for this year’s street art piece.
Artists who participate in Paint Slingers bring most of their own materials, but Fernandez said the event will provide things like lifts for extra large pieces. This year, he’s also trying to secure a paint sponsorship to have some of that cost covered for the artists.
Every surface that will be used in the festival will be donated, and Fernandez said he gives every company or property owner involved a guarantee that the artists won’t create anything controversial or vulgar – only family friendly themes. If they don’t like what the painter creates, he gives them a guarantee that they can commission something new after the festival.
As for who participates, Fernandez said he assembles a group by reaching out to his large network of artists across the greater Rocky Mountain area, many of whom he met through Robin Munro, the founder of Denver’s street art festival, Crush Walls. Fernandez paints a piece for that event every year, and Munro will return the favor this year.
This year’s festival will feature walls by many well-known Denver artists, as well as locals such as Hammock and Steve Knox.
Hammock said she was actually already planning on painting the exterior wall of her studio in the Old Cheyenne Elevator the same weekend as the festival, so it couldn’t have worked out better. She’s looking forward to helping bring some vibrant, lighthearted art to the West Edge.
“I feel a much bigger need to put meaning behind my bigger pieces, especially mural pieces, because they are something relatively permanent and in the public space, and I feel like they should be a positive message,” Hammock said. “I’m excited to start pushing the art movement a little further in the West Edge.”
Fernandez agrees, but his goal for the two-day festival goes even farther. He wants to help Cheyenne as a whole through an outdoor activity that’s spread out, making social distancing much easier.
“Our aim this year is to really bring a lot of foot traffic to the downtown area,” he said. “We feel like an event like this is a real positive event that will give people the chance to do something, give them the opportunity to come out and enjoy the weather and the scenery and the art and local businesses.”
To see the full schedule for Saturday's event, click here.