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Bison mural in Mancos sparks controversy

Property owner said he never approved project and wants it removed
The owner of a building with a new bison mural said it was never approved and he wants it removed. (Courtesy Mancos Creative District)

A popular new mural of bison photos on a building in Mancos has drawn criticism from the property owner, who wants it removed.

The Mancos Creative District paid artist Chip Thomas to create the mural, but the property owner said he never approved the design.

Thomas applied enlarged black-and-white photos he took of bison onto two sides of the building at 298 N. Monte St.

The arrangement of the adults and playful youngsters creates an animated, almost 3D affect and spruces up the view for travelers on U.S. Highway 160.

Thomas is known for his murals across the Southwest that depict Native American people and Southwestern landscapes. He is also a physician on the Navajo Nation.

The Mancos Creative District has been helping to organize murals in town depicting Southwest life and culture.

The newest mural is meant to highlight the importance of bison to Native American tribes, Thomas said, and is a nod to the Ute Mountain Ute tribe’s bison herd off Colorado Highway 184 north of Mancos.

“People driving on the highway have stopped to check it out and take photos,” said Steve Klumker, who rents the building the mural is on for his construction business, Lazy K Bobcat Services. “Bison are part of the West, they are one of my favorite animals.”

A new photomural of the bison of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe is on Monte Street in Mancos. (Courtesy photo)
Artist Chip Thomas created a mural on a building in Mancos visible south of U.S. Highway 160. (Courtesy photo)

Klumker said it was a surprise when his landlord objected to the mural. The property is owned by Monte Park LLC, of which Jury Krajack is president.

“He said he wants it removed,” Klumker said.

The dispute arose from a lapse in communication between Krajack and mural organizers, and could lead to the mural being painted over.

A mural organizer declined to provide a comment or be identified but said the mural project was discussed with Krajack and it was believed he provided verbal permission for it to go ahead.

But Krajack refutes that he granted final approval.

“It was done with no authorization,” Krajack told The Journal by phone. “I was looking to have a different mural done.”

He said he never approved the bison mural or the particular artist, which he said was not the style he was looking for.

He discovered the mural had been installed on the building after an article in The Journal in September.

“Had I seen a rendering beforehand I could have made suggestions on, I may have felt differently. It feels like my rights were trampled,” Krajack said.

In a statement Wednesday to The Journal, the Mancos Creative District said it “was not directly involved in planning discussions with the property owner about the bison mural project.”

The district stated it did provide funding for the artist and offered to provide some funding to the property owner to paint over the mural.

In a Facebook post Tuesday, the Mancos Creative District addressed the situation:

“We understand that art, especially public art, provokes conversation. Painting over the mural is not the conversation anyone expected to have. While the Creative District did not manage the project, we have supported it and have been trying to assist with communication in the hope that the work would be preserved. It looks like that option may be gone, and we must respect the property owner’s decision. The best outcome would be for a new Mancos location to emerge for Dr. Thomas’ bison mural, as there was so much positive feedback from the community.”

Krajack owns and rents out commercial property in Mancos and donates to community events and projects. He currently resides in Florida.

He and community members have been discussing the situation.

Krajack said there is potential for continued discussion about the mural. He has asked Mancos Creative District for a written apology for commissioning the mural without permission.

If provided he said he is willing to leave the mural up for three months while the district finds a new location for it to be reinstalled, at which point he plans to remove it from the building.

His concept is a mural that depicts the older tradition of cattle drives along with the newer trend of Mancos as an artist community.

The Mancos Creative District board declined to comment for this article. Attempts to reach Thomas were unsuccessful.


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