That Stephanie Crossen relishes sunsets is no surprise. The illustrator and designer has created two public murals featuring sunsets for the City of Lakewood’s Spectacular Vernacular Public Art Program. This year, Crossen was again selected to create a mural with a prominent sunset.
“A lot of my work is about nature,’’ says Crossen, a 12-year Lakewood resident. “This is my third sunset mural. One is on The Doughnut Pantry building and the other on Aladdin’s (Eatery). I love water, swimming and interacting with our beautiful lake. And seeing sunsets from the Solstice Steps in Lakewood Park is my inspiration.”
Crossen’s newest mural graces an exterior wall of the building housing United Readers Service, a subscription magazine service. Her original design has been transformed into a vinyl wrap — “like a giant, industrial-grade wallpaper,” she says — to ensure longevity and ease of repair if needed.
Crossen is among eight to 10 artists chosen each year since 2019 through an open call to bring public art to the residents of Lakewood.
“With Spectacular Vernacular, we wanted to further refine and advance our public art program, beautify public spaces and incorporate the community of artists,” says Amanda Cramer, city planner for the City of Lakewood. “Public art has proven again and again to be really beneficial in many ways for both our physical and mental health.”
This year, eight pieces were selected. The City has a budget of $50,000 for the program, and each artist is awarded a grant up to $5,000. Selected property owners in the city are matched with chosen artists. Private-property owners are represented this year; the list includes commercial businesses such as Raw Esthetics Wellness and The Fieldhouse, associated with Studio West 117.
“We are really excited about the proposals that were submitted this year,” says Cramer. “We had so many wonderful proposals, it confirms how incredibly fortunate we are to have such a rich artist community. As the program grows we hoping to expand the types and mediums of art offered through the program.”
Crossen says she believes public art is vital because it brings art into people’s everyday lives.
“It’s so accessible,’’ she says. “And it takes away the notion that something isn’t art if it isn’t in a museum. Privileged people collect and hoard art, and that’s good for them. But that’s not what art means to me. I want art to be for everyone — kids, adults, all humans. I want it to resonate with people. I want kids who are passionate about art to look at public art and say, ‘Wow, I could do that someday.’”
Crossen is grateful that Lakewood celebrates art and local artists. With the wide placement of public art around the city, she says everyone has the opportunity to enjoy it. She already is thinking ahead, hoping to participate in the 2023 Spectacular Vernacular program.
“I am always open to new places and new spaces for my art,” says Crossen, a familiar face at the Lakewood Arts Festival for the past 10 years. “I’d work with anyone who would love to have a mural. But there is this gluten-free café in Lakewood where a mural would be good…”