Art can take on many different forms and appear in some of the most obscure places and it does exactly that on Colorado’s Eastern Plains. While most venture to Denver’s city lights for museums, arts, and entertainment, a more subtle display can be seen out east – in some of the most unexpected locations.
Discover more about life out east with these art experiences on Colorado’s Eastern Plains.
M12 Studio – Last Chance Module Array
Blink and you will miss the nearly non-existent town of Last Chance, CO. Only identifiable by a few abandoned homes and the dilapidated Last Chance Motel, the town has been put back on the map with the Last Chance Module Array. Created by M12 Studio, the Last Chance Module Array is an eight-piece wooden structure, standing amongst the tall prairie grass out east.
While you can see the display from the road, get a closer look by trekking through the wide-open plains. While seemingly simple in form, the module acts as a portal to many points of conceptual entry. To experience the piece, stand at different angles to see and appreciate the perfectly crafted space between the lines.
The forms are meant to be suggestive of rural timber-framed structures and pole barns. The lumber has been finished with a Japanese wood-burning technique known as Shou Sugi Ban, a technique used to make the material more durable.
Not a happy accident, the module is well-positioned to align with the horizon and celestial milestones with the sun rising and setting in the center of the main module structure during the summer and winter solstices.
Travelers will not find signs indicating where the module is, you must know where to find it. To locate it, take I-70 East from Denver to the intersection of US-36 and US-71, then turn right, heading south for a few miles on US-71. To the left stands the Last Chance Module Array.
The M12 Studio is a group of artists, researchers, and writers based in Colorado. They are known for their projects that explore the aesthetics of rural culture and landscapes. With projects on the Plains, in the San Luis Valley, and on the Front Range, M12 Studio stands up for rural Colorado, its people, and the environment. M12 operates as both a creative studio and 501c3 Non-Profit Organization.
Heart of Harvest Mural
While most might think of Denver’s urban landscape as the canvas for colorful murals, there is a different canvas being used out east to showcase artful creations. In the small town of Limon, Colorado’s main truck stop, a recent addition to town was not another gas station but in fact, a colorful mural painted on the side of a grain elevator.
Thanks to a group of young women, Some Girls and a Mural, Limon is now home to a larger-than-life mural that offers something else to look at besides the long line of truck stops.
The piece is called Heart of Harvest and it can be seen on a grain elevator along I-70, heading east or west. But to gain a true appreciation for the piece, take exit 359 and you will see it as you enter the town of Limon. It was commissioned by the mayor of Limon, Julie Coonts, to create something that captured the essence of their rural community on the side of their skyscrapers out east.
The mural depicts the outline of a man and a little girl infused with rural scenes of Colorado. The 60-foot tall silhouette encompasses both mountain and plains landscapes that make up the state of Colorado.
Driven by their love of the arts, faith, and their communities, Some Girls and a Mural are on a mission to paint every grain elevator on the eastern plains, one mural at a time. Their latest project was completed in the town of Flagler on the side of the grain elevators at the Flagler Coop. It’s another important step of many to come in painting Colorado’s Eastern Plains.
You can also find more of their work in town. Located at the Trailing Edge RV Park is a colorful mural painted on an old wind turbine blade. You can see the mural standing tall from the main street or visit the walking path near the RV park to get a closer look.
Be sure to also visit the Lincoln Theatre in downtown Limon to see their work on the building’s exterior.
Hugo Main Street
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A main street revival is taking place on the Eastern Plains in the rural town of Hugo. Over the years, Hugo has experienced hardships like many towns out east. But with the help of some local residents dedicated to its revival, major efforts through the arts are being put into place to inject some life back into the community.
In fact, as part of Colorado’s Main Street: Open for Business grant, Hugo was recently awarded the funds for a complete renewal of its downtown.
But efforts have been in place for a few years to help restore the town’s structures and appearance. Simply taking a walk down Hugo’s Main Street, one will find colorful angel wing murals on the side of Red Brick on Main, for the perfect Instagram pose. And across the way, art in the park for every holiday and festivities in town.
For those willing to get their hands dirty and explore their creative minds, be sure to visit The Garage on main. A coworking and creative space dreamed up by local artist Gillian Laycock, the space invites both locals and visitors to come and take a class or two.
Classes include welding, seasonal decor, and acrylics, and oils painting classes. Plus, be sure to take a moment to admire the indoor art gallery and the outdoor sculpture garden.
Kit Carson County Carousel
Hopping back on I-70 and driving another 70+ miles, further east, to the town of Burlington you come across an unlikely work of art – a historic carousel. Burlington is an unpretentious cow town that boasts an unexpected art experience out east, the Kit Carson County Carousel.
The carousel consists of three rows, 46 hand-carved stationary animals, all mounted on a 45-foot diameter platform. The 16 animals on the outside row are the largest, with intricate carvings such as a giraffe with a snake intertwined around its neck and a wooden medallion with an Arab Sheik.
There are actual antlers on the deer and real horsehair tails on many of the horses. Hand-painted details can also be found on each of the figures such along with gold-leafing still intact.
It’s the only antique carousel in America that still operates with its original paint on both the scenery panels and on the animals, and it is one of fewer than 150 wooden carousels that still remain in operation today.
Fun for the kids and nostalgic adults, buy at $0.25-ticket to hop aboard for a ride on the carousel. Reaching speeds of up to twelve miles an hour with its original motor still intact, this old antique can still get moving.
The carousel is open Memorial Day through Labor Day at the Kit Carson County Fairgrounds.
Feel inspired with a visit to these artful displays on Colorado’s Eastern Plains for a truly unexpected and unique experience.