From public art to benefit concerts, artists pay tribute to King Soopers victims

Kalene McCort, Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo.
·7 min read

Apr. 8—For centuries art has served as an outlet to cope with pain, trauma and to memorialize those who have passed on.

After the March 22 mass shooting at the south Boulder King Soopers, area and faraway creatives have met the sorrow and rage with pieces that bring a bit of light to the darkness.

From forgoing artwork sales so that proceeds can be donated to specific funds to crafting unforgettable tributes, artists are stepping up.

Last week, California-based fabric artist Stephanie Buriel — often called the "yarn bomber" — drove over 16 hours to Boulder to install a "Boulder Strong" crocheted banner on the brick exterior of The Riverside.

Buriel, a skilled crocheter living in Desert Springs, was taught the artform by her roommate while in the Marine Corps. During the pandemic, she brought a bit of color and cheer to public spaces with her jovial displays.

From a "Love Unconditionally" crochet on the exterior of an elementary school near her hometown to a life-size yellow Minion with the caption "Sending You Virtual Hugs," exhibited on a fence near a busy roadway, Buriel's public work radiates warmth and unity.

"For a long time all I did was blankets, scarves and hats," Buriel said. "It wasn't until early 2019 that I wanted to use my crochet skills to spread some positivity within my community. It was also right after another mass shooting. I thought I could give some form of positive affirmation to kids and adults that may give them pause."

Buriel's Boulder tribute all started with a DM on social media.

"I discovered Stephanie's (Buriel's) work when her 'Cancer Sucks' yarn bomb popped up on my company's Instagram feed," said Ellyn Perreault, cofounder of Boulder-based Mend Wellness Packages. "Of course, I loved her craftsmanship and artistry, but the message on the unexpected space — a chain-link fence — is what got my attention as well. After the King Soopers shooting, I thought of how her creations and installations gave the passerby going about his business a message of positivity and hope."

Perreault messaged Buriel about a potential piece and the skilled artisan responded promptly.

"My initial thoughts were 'yes, I want to do this,'" Buriel said. "The only thing that seemed to be a problem was logistics."

At first, Buriel was planning on shipping the piece and having Perreault install it, but ultimately decided to fuel up and make the journey west.

On April 3, the two women met up and got to work.

"Thank goodness she was here to help because it took the right tools and two hours to get it up on the brick wall at the Riverside Restaurant in Boulder," Perreault said. "Each flower and letter was applied on the spot. The flowers represent a life taken in the shooting. I love the big heart as the backdrop to this special piece — just want to wrap it around our community. The '#BoulderStrong' included at the center of the heart may be seen around town a lot right now, but until there's something done about this type of gun violence all I could think of is how we need to stay strong for the victims and their families."

When the piece was completed, Buriel got to sightsee in the city that bears her latest creation's name.

"After the install I did get to explore a little," Buriel said. "I went to Chautauqua Park and Boulder Falls. It was also my first time in Colorado. I thought the drive was beautiful. I also got to eat some amazing food at Lindsey's Deli, Avery Brewing Company and The Sink. Though I was only there for a short time, I enjoyed my visit. I also did some shopping on Pearl Street."

While some tributes remain displayed indefinitely, others have already come and gone.

Michael Grab, who operates under the moniker Gravity Glue, builds exquisite freeform stone sculptures just by organically balancing rocks usually within riverbeds and on shorelines. The day after the shooting, he went to Boulder Creek and began to stack.

"The experience of balancing for me is usually quite relaxing and cathartic," said Grab. "So, balancing these 10 'Boulderites' helped to transmute a heavy emotional state into a sort of symbolic healing presence."

Many citizens ventured to tree-lined Boulder Creek to take in the powerful tribute to the 10 lives lost in last month's devastating act of violence. The temporary memorial served as a place where people came to grieve and find solace among the sound of water flow and birdsongs.

"I have balanced rocks in a memorial style like this in the past," Grab said. "Sometimes, I am commissioned to perform live balancing at memorial service receptions and events of that nature."

With heavy winds dismantling parts of the powerful display, Grab took the piece down. By late March, it was just a memory.

A number of people expressed that they would like to see this as a lasting memorial and Grab is open to the idea of constructing permanent commissioned installations in this vein.

Open Studios has partnered with R Gallery — at 2027 Broadway, in Boulder — to put on a Boulder Strong Fundraiser group show with all proceeds going to Elevations Credit Union's Victims' Assistance Fund. Over 40 pieces, donated by local artists, are mostly priced at $60.

Folks already donated more than $500,000 to the fund and a matching dollar-for-dollar grant up to $200,000 from Elevations Credit Union and Elevations Foundation bumped the amount up to more than $700,000.

While the matching closed April 6, Elevations will continue to accept donations that roll in.

"I created this mosaic garden stone, 'Love on the Rocks: Boulder Strong,' especially for the Victims' Assistance Fund fundraiser following a request from Open Studios for art donations," said Boulder-based artist Jane Glotzer. "I always love finding heart rocks to use for my mosaics and the spiral motif is one I use frequently."

Known for transforming the surface of violins and even shovels, Glotzer's vibrant pieces fuse an eco-conscious aesthetic with highly-detailed beauty.

"The mirror section represents the brokenness our community is feeling, yet also causes us to reflect," Glotzer said. "The red stained glass spiral represents coming out of our collective grief and moving towards healing. And the pyrite — Boulder has a heart of gold. I would hope this piece can offer its buyer even the tiniest bit of emotional respite."

Glotzer's mosaic has already been purchased, but there are plenty of opportunities to buy other one-of-a-kind pieces on display either online or in person. Paintings, mixed-media works, jewelry and framed photographs are among the varied offerings.

While some creatives break out their brushes, others turn to the gift of song to bring about support and serenity.

"For almost 20 years now we've called ourselves a Boulder band," said Mark Megibow, the vocal percussionist of Face Vocal Band. "This is our home. Not only do we rehearse just a mile or two away from that King Soopers, we also know friends and families of the victims, so this affected us all personally. Boulder has taken good care of us over the years. We feel the need to take care of Boulder however we can. We hope that, through our music, we can attract lots of people to tune in to our livestream and donate generously to help the victim's families."

The five-member group will perform at BDT Stage at 7:30 p.m. April 10.

A limited number of patrons have already secured their tickets to watch the show in person, an option that already sold out. But folks can tune into the internationally-acclaimed band's YouTube channel and Facebook to watch the livestream and donate.

All proceeds from the livestream will benefit the Colorado Healing Fund, an organization that set up the Boulder Supermarket Tragedy Fund to support families and those affected by the shootings last month.

"Our audiences have told us many times over the years that our music can be healing," Megibow said. "Our songs have always run the gamut from deep and meaningful to fun and joyful — but never negative. Even at a normal show, audiences leave feeling uplifted."

Face Vocal Band's varied repertoire is sure to provide a bit of comfort.

"We have a number of songs that we feel will fit this situation very strongly," Megibow said. "From Pink Floyd's 'On the Turning Away' to Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah,' we're putting together a set that we hope helps people find some solace, some meaning, some healing and some relief after such a dark moment in Boulder's life."