Reincarnating the spirit of the old Ute 70 Theatre at 21 N. Nevada Avenue, CityRock climbing center adds an extreme viewing perspective to the tactile art gallery experience so often limited to children's museums: rock climbing on giant murals depicting classic sci-fi flick characters.
When the construction is done, black–and-white murals of King Kong, the 50 Foot Woman and the Creature from the Black Lagoon will animate three segments of the lime green and gray, 45-foot climbing wall. A graffiti mural will electrify another enormous panel, all of which are studded with brightly colored hand grips.
"I grew up watching those movies after school," says the local artist commissioned for the tall order, Corbin Hillam, adding that he and his son also got a grasp of the classics by watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 together. A freelance book illustrator, he says his art is usually limited to what he can scan into a computer. The large scale is a fun challenge, he says.
Hillam is no stranger to the public interacting with his art, though; for several years he's created chalk murals on sidewalks for Colorado College, CC student organizations and businesses downtown.
"I'm used to people walking across the things I've done," he says. "I have no problem with people climbing all over the art; that's kind of fun."
Lara Groshong, co-owner of CityRock and what's been known as The Rock Climbing Center in Monument (now to be called CityRock Monument), says the concept behind the art is the unique experience it creates.
"People can get whatever they want; they can buy things anywhere," she says. "It's experiences that are more difficult to come by and I think that the more variety there is in the experience, the more powerful it is."
While most climbing gyms have faux-rock walls, she says, "Why pretend? We're never going to make actual rock indoors." After seeing pictures of climbing gyms in Europe painted in brilliant colors, she says they decided to take it up a notch: "We have a giant canvas. Somebody might as well do something fun with it.
"We can't create the mountains inside, but we can create art. When people go outside and have experiences with nature, that's kind of like what art can do inside," Groshong says.
Local graffiti artist Fuse (who prefers not to disclose his real name) hasn't climbed on art, either, but he's climbed to create it. In his earlier days, he says he ventured under bridges and onto train cars to tag in Los Angeles. One illegal mural he painted underneath a freeway even landed on the cover of a climbing magazine. Fuse, who has taught graffiti classes at the Dale House (a local organization that works with at-risk youth), says that bringing the climbing, art and hip-hop communities together creates an opportunity to positively influence the younger generation.
Groshong says that community is an important part of CityRock's mission, which is "to strengthen individuals and communities through unique, fun fitness and adventure." The gym hopes to offer salsa, breakdancing and Spanish language classes in addition to yoga classes and a children's climbing room. Sharing the space and the community-building mission are LifeQuest Transitions, a nonprofit that teaches self-empowerment through adventure racing, and CrossFit SoCo, an Olympic lifting, gymnastics and fitness training group.