“Often, the murals I make are specifically about Ogden. There are a lot of people who are all about Ogden and the community, even if they have different ideas about it, and those are the people that most often hire me. Beyond that however, I am Ogden in so many ways. My family is intricately woven into Ogden’s history. I have always been here or very near, and I will always call Ogden my home,” Richard Ramos tells me, as we are sitting in what can only be described as a backyard grafitti dojo. Ramos, an Ogden native and muralist whose iconic murals can be found all over the city, including the south-facing wall of Wasatch Roasters, has invited us over to document his latest mural. As we sit talking in this spray-painted sanctuary it’s hard not to feel reverent as he and the other artists explain why they do what they do.
The property in downtown Ogden belongs to Nezak, also a local street artist who has built this testament to his passion. Sixteen-foot walls stretch to the sky covered in spray-painted splendor. His desire to create, and provide a safe place for other creatives, inspired him to erect the wood panel walls himself. He and other local grafitti artists hone their skills on the walls, and then, like Krylon zen gardens, they wipe the slate clean and start again.
Ogden’s street art scene is as diverse as Ogden itself, with some artists carrying day jobs, varying from computer programming to real estate, and others surviving as professional artists. Some have painted railroad cars, masked and looking over their shoulders so they’re not prosecuted by law enforcement, and others get grants and coverage by the city. The juxtaposition is a metaphor for Ogden itself and why we felt compelled to cover this story.
NEZAK’S BACK YARD CREW
We would like to highlight Ogden’s street artists, and have chosen a few from many who tirelessly and often thanklessly give their art to our community. Our goal is to continue the conversation in our community about the invaluable contributions these Ogdenites provide that not only beautify our city, but help promote small business, increase property values, deter crime and make our social media posts pop.
So head out, explore the art that your city has to offer, but please respect the artists’ and businesses’ work and property. Do them a solid - if you are going to post the pictures you take of their work or buildings, tag the artists on social media, and tag the businesses who have facilitated the work. Support local artists!
Rich’s works are distinctive portraiture style murals. A great example sits on the south facing wall of Wasatch Roasters.
“Other artists, relationships, and life experiences have all influenced my work. Perhaps relationships have been the biggest influence in my work. Portraiture is often my preferred subject matter. I have painted several portraits of friends who have passed away as a way of showing that whatever the nature of the relationship we had is or was, it meant enough to me that I would keep examining that relationship even in their absence. Sometimes I just paint a face that intrigues me. I make art in the street because I feel that it is important to share beauty and creativity. This invites a relationship with the community, I suppose.”
Rich supports the burgeoning art scene happening in Ogden and encourages other local artists to embrace it. “The local artists must rise to this occasion rather than fight it as an infection or invasion. Local artists can learn and grow through contact with artists who’ve been on the national and world stage.” He thinks the “art world” coming to Ogden is a good thing but hopes people will continue to support local artists along the way. As for his own mural paintings, Rich says he likes the fact that it won’t last forever. “I like the ephemerality of the paintings I make and the places that I make them in. Every time I finish something, I think of how I should have done it another way, done it better, and I look forward to the next project. I have yet to make something that is not terribly flawed. I like putting it there knowing it will fade.”
Inspired by artists from all over the world like Diego Rivera and legendary graffiti artists and styles from New York, Los Angeles and Brazil, Nezak’s style is distinctive and heavily influenced by his childhood in Mexico City.
“I’m a foreign-born person living in Ogden for about 12 years and I like it because it’s a cute, quiet place to live and raise my kids. I like to leave a piece of me every place I go in the form of a mural or painting.”
Nezak has been painting since 1996, initially finding places on streets, abandoned buildings, under bridges, etc. and after a few years started doing “better pieces with more style and colors,” and eventually, things like commission work and signs. He says he likes to leave a piece of himself every place he does a mural or painting, and would love to do more art work in Ogden about the history of the city and past, present and future culture of the residents. “I wish Ogden will open more space to do fine art, Pop Art, and graffiti.” Nezak is a driving force in Origin Alley as his eagle currently keeps a watchful eye over the alleyway in between Wasatch Roasters and The YES Hell on 2436 Grant Ave. Check there often as he and the artists rotate works every few months or so.
Jaroh grew up in Ogden and has lived here most of his life.
“I have been painting and documenting graffiti all along the Wasatch Front since the mid 90’s. In the past, Ogden City has not been very receptive to non-traditional public art. Many business owners have been hassled by the city when they allow murals to be painted on their buildings. I feel like this has been changing over the last few years, but it is a long, slow change. I really like what is happening in South Salt Lake and Provo right now and would like to see Ogden move more in that direction.”
Most of Jaroh’s street art is subtle, as he prefers to remain anonymous. “My friends and family know what is mine,” he says, “and that is enough for me.” But you may be able to distinguish his vibrant child-inspired art from other artists’ work. He likes to paint pieces his kids will like, “fun, bright, cartoonish, and playful.” Jaroh explains the difference between true Graffiti and Graffiti “inspired art.” “Painting a commissioned job or a legal/permission wall may allow you to take your time and produce higher quality work, but it removes some of the essential elements of graffiti. Graffiti is painted under high pressure and creates intense experiences. When you take that away the art produced ends up being a hollow imitation of the real thing. I appreciate both, but they are definitely two different types of art.” He says that the places he has received the greatest influence for graffiti art in Ogden are the train yards. “Ogden is one of the greatest places in the country to see the rolling freight train art gallery of artists from all over the US, Canada and Mexico. Ogden is a crossroads for the train lines and you can see new pieces from writers in Miami to Vancouver a couple days after they are painted.”
Jaroh’s dream is to see more legal/open wall space in Ogden similar to the Wasatch Roasting Company coffee shop Origin Alley wall. “I think there are a lot of creative people in Ogden that when given the chance would create some amazing art,” he says. “They just need a place to do it.”
IG Trains: @Krimtimeprod
Lindsay grew up in Ogden and has been an artist since she was old enough to hold a crayon. She is a lover of color, “yummy” colors, “the kind that make you feel like you just ate something really delicious.”
Some examples of her work:
“Electric West”: 25th and Adams. Inspired by the natural treasures in Utah.
“Positive Energy”: 2865 Washington Blvd. This piece was inspired by the positive energy given by people and the outdoors.
Crosswalk on 25th and Jefferson, expressing the freedom that knowledge gives us.
“Building Ogden”: 23rd and Washington. Created for the Heritage Festival, celebrating the many people who built the culture of Ogden and it’s famous railroad.
“Ogden is such an amazing place, with great access to all the things I love. I am an ultra trail runner, mountain biker, hiker, and lover of the mountains. I can be in the mountains minutes after walking out my front door. I also have a view of them from my art studio. Ogden also has a wonderful community of artists. I’m fortunate to be part of Pando Art Collective. These artists are so supportive of each other, which makes a huge difference. Having Ogden City recognize the importance of art is also a driving factor in creating.”
Lindsay is an artist who thrives on change. She resists the idea that an artist must be “recognizable” and embraces her adaptability and wide breadth of style. No two paintings she does are the same. But consistently reflected in her artwork is her passion for color, the outdoors, and for Ogden - particularly her public art displays. “Each one I’ve created so far is vastly different visually, but all are united by my love for Ogden, and Utah in general.” she says. “Art is elevating people’s perception of Ogden,” Lindsay states, adding that she would love to do at least a few more murals around town. Although murals are more challenging, working with difficult surfaces and against the outdoor elements, like wind, Lindsay says the challenges make you more creative in problem solving and that it’s essential for growth. On being an artist in Ogden: “I was an art and art history teacher for ten years. I can tell you that artists are essential to a successful society. Art is what helps define culture and brings understanding of other cultures. Artists aren’t just fine artists. They are in everything beautiful you see around you. I feel that my role is to help people love this amazing place. I can change peoples’ perceptions of Ogden itself. We still have this rough and tumble reputation, but when you look at the soul of Ogden, we are a caring, quirky, artsy and loyal town.”
Lindsay appreciates the wonderful art community in Ogden but would also like to see the art market continue to evolve, so that artists charge what they’re worth and that consumers realize the value of the artists’ work. She encourages everyone to donate to nonprofits like 01 Arts if they want to continue to beautify Ogden through public art.
Facebook: Lindsay Huss Art
Jess is a Pop Art style artist in Ogden. Almost all of her paintings include black & white so the other colors in the piece are seen more accurately. Her mural “Bees” is on 25th and Adams.
“I want to make the people here proud to call this their home. Ogden has a reputation in Utah that is not a great one. What we haven't shared with the rest of the state is how secretly incredible the Ogden aura is. The people who live in this city know that it is quirky as can be and is the state's most impressively bumpin' city. In the summertime this place explodes with things to do and it's kind of an insider secret. Once the rest of the state realizes how Ogden is setting new standards for art, family friendly spaces, and general awesomeness, they are going to have a hard time catching up.”
The inspiration for “Bees” was to keep the community mindful of the importance of bees. Jess says she realized how critical bees are to our survival after she moved to Utah and started gardening. “Every plant we eat, every animal we consume, every oxygenized breath we take is impacted by the presence of bees. Without them, our world will surely die, and quickly. Once I moved to Utah and started planting things and really focusing on making my corner of the planet a better place, I realized how important bees are.” The piece was done in Jess’s classic black and white style. She explains, “A lot of my works include very limited, but exquisitely bright colors, so staying true to that, I created a large piece that is nearly black and white with those gorgeous, golden bees really impacting the space and drawing in the viewers' eyes.” Jess adds black and white to images because it helps ground the colors she chooses, “For instance, yellow can take on many different hues and shades, but everyone knows what white and black are supposed to be, so putting them next to the yellow allows our brains to see the intended color more accurately than if it were next to another color, say orange or green. Almost all my paintings include black and white for this reason.”
Jess wants to bring more art to vacant spaces. “They don't need to sit there growing weeds until they are sold and built upon, they can serve a great purpose to our artists and beautify the city at the same time with just a little imagination and some support.” On being an artist in Ogden: “I have wanted to help Ogden get rolling on its way to revitalization. Ogden has a great presence of underground artists that already exist here. I hope the city does not direct art too much and bring in so much outside art that what's here is lost. They should nourish the artists that are here, as opposed to bringing in a ton of outside artists that create the art the "city" wants. I want local artists to have a home to showcase their art and not only that, but a place where viewers could gain exposure to these local talents.”
Sherry, an Ogden native, has been involved in local arts of all kinds for years. She is the official artist of Ogden’s Christmas Village and continually paints backdrops and scenery for The Imagine Ballet Theatre’s productions of “The Nutcracker,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “The Secret Garden,” “Peter and the Wolf,” “Fairy Doll,” and “Urashimo Taro and Fairyopolous.” The backdrops are 55 feet by 24-30 feet tall and include the legs, and headers, all hand painted.
Her work can be found:
Ogden City Hinckley Airport art installation “Ogden Then and Now” created with her son Josh Ferrin.
“The Four Seasons” mural downtown Ogden (225 feet long). She coordinated the project, and painted along with many volunteers from IBT.
“Last year we finished the mural “The Four Seasons” with the help of students and parents of Imagine Ballet Theatre in the parking lot behind the studio that was blighted but is now beautiful. My son and I were chosen for an art installation by the Mayor's Art Council to create a mural for the waiting room wall at Ogden Hinckley Airport. I did the paperwork and coordinated the project, Josh Ferrin created a digital image using 3D techniques to create a sixty foot wall representing “Ogden Now (sports) and Ogden then,” historical sites that are still in existence in Ogden today.
“Origin Alley” which sits in between Wasatch Coffee Roasters and The YES Hell on 2436 Grant, is the result of Darren Blackford’s desire to positively impact his community, to leave a positive mark. As the owner of Wasatch Roasting Company he reached out to the city, jumped through hoops and spent time and his own money to provide a place that is now the hub of the Ogden Street Art Scene. Lorie Buckley, with Ogden City, connected him to local artists such as Ramos, Nezak and Jaroh to help him bring his ideas to vibrant life. Origin Alley is now one of the most easily recognized locations in Ogden. We hope that other local businesses can see the value in street art and reach out to Scott Patria who is currently Chair of the Ogden City Arts Advisory Committee, on suggestions for local business and property owners on how they can pursue adorning their buildings with street art.
Here are some of Scott’s suggestions:
“While Ogden City does not have a formalized permit process for new murals, its General Plan does support and encourage their inclusion in the public environment (section 8A). However, it's important to note that murals do need to conform to some general standards, and not violate the city's sign ordinance. Approval from the OCAAC gives the design some legitimacy as "art,” assuming it does not violate city code around advertisements or signage or other community standard. While it's not a formal requirement, it is advisable that persons or businesses wishing to paint a mural submit a design proposal to the Ogden City Arts Advisory Committee for review and approval before proceeding. This may be dropped off at City Hall, or emailed to email@example.com.
The OCAAC will review and approve the design if it does not materially conflict with its understanding of any applicable ordinance(s). This process has actually been used recently, for the new Lindsay Huss mural at Daily Rise Coffee at 2865 Washington Blvd. Such a review can be conducted electronically, and a response received fairly quickly. The advantage is that both the artist and property owner will then have a record of approval from a mayoral-appointed committee, should any questions arise. The OCAAC has also proposed keeping a record of these murals to share with staff in planning, code enforcement, and the Ogden Police Department, so approved murals are not subject to fines or removal. In addition, this archive can be valuable if a mural is damaged or defaced and needs to be repaired.
Another option folks might consider is partnering with a local nonprofit to execute murals.O1ARTS, for example, has a program,O1WALLS,dedicated to public murals, and is particularly well-suited to navigate these concerns.”