Public Art

The Backstory Behind Park City's Cool, New Public Art Piece

Street artist Bisco Smith and local youth turn a utilitarian transportation route into a immersive art experience.

By Larry Warren June 18, 2018 Published in the Summer/Fall 2018 issue of Park City Magazine

More than 60 tweens and teens from across Summit County participated in the “Future is Now” mural project. 

Growing up in the urban east in the ’90s, Bisco Smith immersed himself in New York City’s hip-hop and graffiti art culture, tagging buildings, creating mix tapes, deejaying, and writing hip-hop lyrics. “I was a troublemaker,” he says. “It all starts with rebellion.” Fortunately for him, Smith was able to channel the insurrection of his youth into a fine arts degree and, eventually, international fame as a visual artist. And though his edgy street art may seem, at first glance, disparate from Park City’s outdoorsy, mountain-town ambience, the group he collaborated with to create Park City’s newest piece of public art can likely relate to his work in a very personal way.

The project is titled “The Future Is Now” and began as a national competition presented by the Park City Summit County Arts Council, Summit County Public Art Advisory Board, and Basin Recreation. Smith was chosen among a pool of 11 applicants to collaborate with local tweens and teens to design a mural for the walls and ceiling of the Highway 224 pedestrian and bicycle underpass between Skullcandy and the Visitor Center on the west side of the highway, and the Redstone Shopping District on the east. “We wanted the artist we selected to reflect a youth-oriented vision of the community, engage a wide range of youth groups, and celebrate diversity,” art advisory board administrator Jocelyn Scudder explains.  “[Smith’s work] is something Park City hasn’t seen before.”

The students design the mural with Smith at Skullcandy.

To design the piece, Smith gathered local 11- to 17-year-olds in engagement workshops at Skullcandy where he discussed their feelings, hopes, and concerns for the future and then translated those thoughts into graffiti-influenced designs. He then worked with the kids to transfer the images onto the large concrete “canvas” of the underpass, an area measuring more than half a football field long and 24 feet wide, with an arched ceiling reaching 10 feet high. Because he’d worked in this way previously—Bisco brought Israeli and Palestinian youth together to design and paint a wall mural in Jerusalem—his application stood out among other artists who entered the competition. “Our teenagers do get a little lost,” Scudder says, “and Park City is a community of contrasts. We’re a small mountain town with big-city amenities and really unique demographics, including underserved populations.”

The Future Is Now mural was completed in May and is now an unexpected immersion in street art for walkers and pedalers passing through the busy Kimball Junction underpass. But on a larger level, the project represents a lasting legacy of art-inspired hope for the future, as interpreted by local teens with Smith’s guiding hand, paint rollers, and brushes. “I want to show youth the possibility of art, get them in a state of positive thinking,” he says. “What came from that is reflected in the work.”

Watch the making of this new project here:

THE FUTURE IS NOW video by Jasmine Angelique.

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