Limon, Colo., mural was a salute to agriculture and a labor of love
June 29, 2018
Eastern Colorado, to an outsider, could be considered part of the so-called fly-over states. To Staci (Ravenkamp) Beauford and her gang of girlfriends, it is full of beauty that just can't be seen from the interstate. After a week in a borrowed bucket truck, a bit of that beauty is visible from I-70 to passersby who can see a 60-foot tall mural of a silhouette of a farmer holding his daughter in the air.
Beauford, who is originally from Hugo, Colo., but now makes Arkansas her home, was raised on a wheat farm and has an understanding of agriculture and an appreciation for those who make their living in the industry. When the mayor of Limon, Colo., approached her to paint a mural on the side of a grain bin owned by Northern Ag Services, LLC, in Limon honoring agriculture, she jumped at the chance.
"The design challenge was definitely there," Beauford said. "We told them we would give them three designs to choose from when we agreed to the job. The first image was sunshine through wheat stalks and the next image was a meadowlark with some sunflowers on a fence post. We were really struggling with the last image."
She and her sister tossed ideas around until Mayor Julie Coonts mentioned a silhouette filled with a scene that she had stumbled across. When Beauford presented the three choices, Coonts said they all immediately chose the silhouette design.
"We wanted it to be exciting and fresh and not just a plain, boring mural," Beauford said. "It just happened. It was like, 'yep, that's it' and it all came together."
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To make the mural, Heart of Harvest, possible, more than just the design had to come together. Beauford enlisted the help of her sister, Kayla Ravenkamp, Limon, Colo., her cousin Audrey Sayles, Seibert, Colo., and her friend, Krystal Wiser, Greenwood, Ark., and together they tackled the project. Ravenkamp and Beauford worked together on the design and then Sayles and Wiser joined Beauford to prepare and paint the mural. None of the women have formal art training outside of a few art classes in high school.
"Kayla and I have never had any art training beyond what we had in school," she said. "It's definitely a testament to what you can do if you get a little bit in school in these rural communities."
While she has completed murals and paintings on a smaller scale, including a well-known American flag mural on the propane tank at D-J Petroleum in Limon, that was the catalyst for this painting, this project was much larger. In fact, this mural is about six times larger than any previous projects. In addition to preparing the surface with primer, the girls used a projector borrowed from a Denver-based movie company, to project the outline on the bin so they could trace it with Sharpies. The local ACE Hardware store and Witt Boys NAPA all contributed to the project as well, making it a true community effort.
Beauford is pleased with the finished project and said, for her personally, her love of agriculture played a huge role in giving her the grit to tackle and complete the project.
"You know how that is on a farm," she said. "You just figure out a way to accomplish it. We definitely had the passion to get it right. The wheat farmer was a big deal, the wheat at the bottom, it was a big deal to get it right and have it represent eastern Colorado."
She said members of the community "owned" the mural from the start and took a great deal of interest in the project and its progress. Mayor Coonts said the town's goal was to add some color and beauty to that end of town to draw people's eyes and interest. With a strong local connection and a love of agriculture, she said Beauford was the perfect choice and the mural meets all of their goals, defining and highlighting what Limon is truly all about.
"Everyone wanted to talk about (the details) they had seen and the progress," she said. "That was a big reward for all of us involved. And then the honks — we had a lot of honks while we were working and that was fun to get that little motivation to keep going."
Sayles and Ravenkamp have accepted a few local jobs around the region, playfully dubbing the painting projects "painting the Plains," Beauford, having since returned to Arkansas, said she has murals in the works to adorn the small highway she lives near, one that has been bypassed since the construction of a nearby interstate highway.
At project's end, she said she is glad to see the farmers honored with art of their own and for those traveling through the area to see a glimpse of the beauty of agriculture, this time visible from the road. ❖
— Spencer Gabel is a freelance writer from Wiggins, Colo., where she and her family raise cattle and show goats. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at Rachel Spencer Media.