Downtown Claremore is a little brighter, a little bolder thanks to a larger-than-life mural.
The mural is part of the city’s Alley Activation 2025 project.
City officials were looking for a way to improve the community image and “increase the attractiveness of the city to tourists, businesses and potential investors.”
“One way the city can accomplish this goal is through the ‘healing’ and repurposing of underutilized areas in our community. One of the most underutilized areas in Claremore is our alleyways. Currently, these vital elements of our urban tissue tend to be used for two purposes: utility servicing and deliveries for local businesses. Their potential is undeniable and communities across the country are quickly moving towards repurposing their alleys to extract the untapped social and economic potential,” said Kyle Clifton, Assistant Planner for the City of Claremore.
He said over the past few months the City of Claremore and Claremore Main street have been working on this alley revitalization plan. He said surveys were done and meetings held and one key takeaway was that Claremore residents want public art.
“Art not only helps revitalize the alleys, but it also makes a positive difference in people's lives because of its ability to connect directly with its audiences,” Clifton said, adding that passers-by can watch the progress on the alley adjacent to the North Block Common building.
“Alley Activation 2025 was born out of a Claremore Main Street committee and has simply come alive. Through support from the City of Claremore and partnerships with Spectrum Paint and The Hammer Studio, the first piece of alley revitalization and our first public art piece in four years is possible,” said Jessica Jackson, Main Street Director.
“We are excited to see quick progress by John Hammer, whose vibrant artistic vision will bring beauty to a utilitarian space. And this is just our first baby step in the six-year plan. Be sure to meet us at the mural."
John Hammer of Hammer Studio said he was honored to be chosen as the artist to tackle this project.
“It was up to me to pick out the wall and figure out which I wanted to do, and get approval from the building owners. But that wall in particular seemed like a good surface and its in the area where other changes have been done,” he said, adding that he originally had no intentions of doing that large of a piece.
But, he said, it made sense to be as big and bold as possible on the first one.
“Then I had to come up with the idea and theme. I wanted to keep it centered around local things,” he said. “It has a portrait of Stuart Roosa. I don’t feel like he gets enough recognition. I think it’s pretty cool we have an astronaut from Claremore. Not too many little towns can claim that.”
Roosa will share the wall with Claremore’s favorite, Will Rogers.
“The theme is travelers of both space and time—because they’re both timeless people, especially Will,” he said. “It has a travel theme to it. It will have a large Route 66 road sign in the middle of it so that it points out that we are a destination on the Route 66 route.”
He said there will be a graphic representations of both an airplane and a spacecraft.
He said feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive.
“People are excited to have something like this in Claremore,” he said. “People are excited to see Claremore step up and be more progressive with art projects downtown.”
Hammer added that, “Projects like this makes art accessible to everybody, so you don’t have to pay an entry fee to a museum or anything. That’s what I love most about public art, it belongs to everyone. It belongs to the city, to the people.”
He said he knows this piece, like all art, won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.
“But overall, people appreciate and understand that we need to create beauty in our environment. We look around and all we see is billboards and signs and storefronts and we’re bombarded by stuff we didn’t choose—so adding art into these spaces is beneficial to bring a little life, a little color, something that’s not trying to sell you something. It’s just there to look at and appreciate.”