On a recent weekday afternoon, artist Adam Skedsen pressed strips of green painter’s tape onto a cinder block wall on Second Street.
From the top corner of the wall, a painting of an orange and red sun looked down on the outlines of a butterfly and flower, which Skedsen was planning to finish painting this week. The painter’s tape would protect the background as he applied layers of green and white spray paint to the flower’s leaves.
There will be three different layers of paint just for the leaves,” he said as he worked.
Behind him, a line of flags hanging across the parking lot of Plains Tire snapped in the breeze, and the air smelled of rubber. The wall where Skedsen worked separated the tire store from Albany County Public Health next door and the Downtown Clinic two doors down.
When it’s finished, “Rollin’ in the Sun,” named after a song lyric by musician John Prine, will be one of Laramie’s newest murals.
“I was trying to think about what we have the most of in Wyoming, and that’s the sun,” Skedsen said.
In the alley behind the Downtown Clinic, 611 S. Second St., another new mural by artist Dan Toro surrounds three sides of a community garden that was planted this summer. Two walls depict leafy tendrils, while the third wall shows a hand wearing a cast reaching out to another hand offering a healing plant. Already, names of clinic volunteers and other community members dot the cast.
Pete Gosar, executive director of the Downtown Clinic, said the mural’s hands are of different ethnicities, reflecting the clinic’s diverse clientele and volunteer base. A woman’s hand reaches out to help, reflecting the clinic’s history.
“The clinic was established by women in the community 19 years ago, and it’s primarily staffed by women, and has been historically,” he said.
As the murals near completion, the Downtown Clinic is ready to celebrate its new public space with a dedication scheduled for 4-6 p.m. Friday in the alley and garden. Musician Sharon Martinson with The Littlest Birds will play from 4-5 p.m., and a presentation is set for 5:15 p.m. During the presentation, Toro and Skedsen will talk about their work and Gosar will talk about the garden and the clinic’s mission.
The tucked-away garden is surrounded by walls on three sides and an alley on the fourth. As late summer mellows into early fall, hollyhocks and roses are still in bloom, tomatoes are hanging heavy from their vines, squash plants are overflowing their beds, tiny peppers are popping from their buds, and bright red strawberries and raspberries are hiding under leaves.
Naomi Boldon, an Americorps VISTA volunteer at the clinic who completed her service earlier this summer, built the garden during the last year, transforming it from a parking lot into an oasis.
With the help of donations, grants and volunteer labor, she built benches and garden beds, installed irrigation and composting systems and planted healing plants in a spiraling herb bed flanked by gabion walls. Everything in the garden is either edible or medicinal.
The intention of the garden is to bolster physical care while also tending to mental, emotional and spiritual health.
“Whether you garden or not, when you’re there, your blood pressure goes down, and it has a real positive impact on you as a person,” Gosar said.
Gosar said food security and nutrition are concerns for clients of the Downtown Clinic, a volunteer-run organization that offers primary health care for low-income, uninsured adults in Albany County. The clinic distributes fresh produce provided by Feeding Laramie to its clients, and garden produce will supplement those distributions or be eaten by volunteers.
He envisions moving the clinic’s reception area to the garden on nice days, to allow people to relax outside before and after their appointments.
Meg Thompson Stanton, coordinator of the Laramie Public Art Coalition, said the garden and murals were a “true collaboration” between the coalition, the Downtown Clinic, the Laramie Mural Project and the artists.
“The Downtown Clinic had a great vision to make this a community garden that’s open to everybody, and we’re really interested in projects that engage the community and are really inclusive,” she said.
She said the garden is one of the few places in the downtown district where people can congregate without being expected to spend money.
“Public art has been really well received in Laramie, and every year we like to celebrate the projects we do,” she said.
Gosar said he plans to build a fence and install lighting in the garden, but already people are popping in to check it out.
“We’re hoping to create a space that people will use,” he said.