Jocelyn Lapham may be the face behind the newly designed Ram Walk street mural, but she’s also the first to note that, just like a winning football season for the Colorado State University Rams, the project was a team effort.
From the CSU professors and staff who ushered the project into existence, to her fellow students who helped organize things like plotting out stencils for the massive 494-foot, 6-inch mural, to the volunteers who maneuvered around a rain-soaked week to get the mural painted on time.
“Just as much as this is my mural, it’s theirs, too,” Lapham said. The senior visual arts major’s design was selected as part of a contest to redesign of the beloved street mural along Meridian Avenue. Ram Walk ushers the football team through CSU fans into Canvas Stadium before every home game.
A tribute to campus and community
The charge was to create something that embodied the word “stalwart,” a term that resonated with Lapham.
Being “stalwart” is about being a loyal supporter of a team, a contributing member of the community, she said, adding, “Those are things that I’m interested in, serving my community. I’ve done that since high school, so it felt natural to think about what stalwart means to me in terms of CSU.”
That idea of community is also what inspired Lapham’s design. Each of the nearly 8-foot-tall letters spelling out “stalwart” features figures within completing various tasks ranging from playing sports to studying in a lab to hiking to the A. Lapham said she wanted to highlight the variety of experiences at CSU that both set students apart and that bring them – and the surrounding community – together.
“All of the things that I’ve incorporated into the mural are how I’ve envisioned CSU, memories that I’ve made or experiences I’ve heard other people share,” said Lapham, who received a $5,000 scholarship from the College of Liberal Arts for her design.
A team effort
One of the goals behind the Ram Walk refresh was to see the new design tie into the classroom, the campus and Fort Collins community, said David Pyle, an instructor in arts management, who spearheaded the project, along with committee members from across the university, including Interim Chief of Staff Albert Bimper, Sport Management; Michelle Stanley, Arts Management; Maggie Walsh, Marketing and Communications; Chris Ferris, Athletics; and Eleanor Moseman, Johnny Plastini and John Gravdahl, Art and Art History.
“The best thing by far — and what really gets to the heart of why this was such a perfect project for this class — is that it focused on how you can use art to bring communities together, and that’s what’s happened,” Pyle said. “We have people who contributed to this in so many different ways, who — now that this project is done — every time they walk by or drive, they’ll say, ‘I was part of that, and I’ve contributed to the campus and the community in a particular way that’s embodied by that work of art.’
Participants from across campus got involved including from departments such as Arts Management, Sport Management, Art & Art History, CSU Athletics, and CSU Marketing and Communications, and the Nancy Richardson Design Center.
“The arts are so powerful as a focal point for bringing communities together,” Pyle said. “In a way, you’re building upon people’s innate desire to connect, their desire to work on things together and to use art and the creative process as a way to learn something about who they are, and even more importantly, to use art to learn something about who and what they can become.”
The project was organized and carried out via Pyle’s Arts Collaboration in the Community class — part of the Arts Management program and the LEAP Institute for the Arts. The students managed the project, giving them the chance to put their lessons into practice.
Leading by example
For Marcy Yoder, seeing a “creative placemaking” project like this come to fruition felt validating.
Yoder, whose work as Neighborhood Services Manager at City of Fort Collins focuses on community engagement, is in the Master of Public Policy and Administration program and was part of the Collaboration in the Community class.
“In my work, I’ve seen what can happen in a community when we bring people together to work on a project,” Yoder said. “You can co-create some really cool things when you have that open mind around the idea of what can we do together.”
Watching the impact that the project has had, not only on the class but on the volunteers who contributed to it and even the smiles on the faces of bystanders who stopped to check it out or ask questions about the mural as they painted, has already shown that this is not a “one-and-done” project but one that will have lasting impact, including on herself, Yoder said.
“For me, this project has been a really good reinforcement that this is the work that I need to be doing,” she said. “It fulfills me. It gives me purpose and meaning.”
Answering the call
More than 100 volunteers ranging from students to faculty and staff to alumni and members of the Fort Collins community helped with the final stenciling and painting of Ram Walk, including the entire CSU women’s volleyball team.
As a preparator for the Fort Collins Museum of Art, Cheryl Rogers (B.A. ’08) understands the impact that art can have so she was happy to volunteer her time to help with the Ram Walk project.
Rogers admitted that she doesn’t go to the football games and so she hadn’t seen the Ram Walk before she volunteered to help paint. She’s usually in the area only on her way to the nearby Visual Arts Building. But now she’ll look at it differently.
“I love that the Ram Walk is engaging all kinds of people, including community members and students, through art,” she said. “So, I will definitely be looking at it differently.”
Lapham hopes that the mural also causes students to see themselves — and their roles on campus — differently, as well.
“I think it’s really important that students see that they have a voice and a place on campus,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons I wanted to come to CSU, because they have such amazing opportunities — especially for undergrad students — to get involved … I think it’s really important that students see that if you want to get involved on campus, you can.”
One special person that Lapham kept in mind during each step of the process was Savannah McNealy.
McNealy helped design the original Ram Walk mural while a graphic design student in CSU’s Creative Services office. She was killed in 2017 during a domestic violence incident.
In honor of McNealy, the primary color of the S in “Stalwart” is purple, her favorite color.
“She had a really huge impact not only on it being placed, but also in the CSU community,” Lapham said. “I definitely don’t want people to forget her part in making the mural. I want it to be something that people look at now and are like, ‘Oh, Joceyln’s design is really cool.’ But I also want people to remember that I’m not the first and I wouldn’t have had this opportunity if it weren’t for her.”
Sometimes it’s easy to look at things within a silo, Pyle said. But everything done here was built on others’ work. And even when those people are gone, who they are and what they brought to the community carries through.
“Savannah started something on which we’re building in a way that reflects her original contribution,” he said. “And hopefully down the road somebody will want to do something fun with Ram Walk a few years from now, and that’ll continue to build on what we’ve done.”
Ram Walk’s debut
When the football team plays the home opener Sept. 10 against Middle Tennessee, Lapham plans to be there cheering them on, but also watching to see how the crowd experiences the new Ram Walk design.
“I’m really excited for people to interact with it and take photos and for it to generate conversation,” she said. “I think it’s great that people will see it on their orientation walks or their visits to CSU. Hopefully, it will be something that everyone can be proud of.”