Walk up to the vacant building neighboring Art Square and you’ll see artist Gear Duran directing a fellow artist on a cherry picker who is spraying a blue sky across the wall. In the foreground, militarized officers stand, facing off the prideful Standing Rock Sioux on the other side.
For several months, the Standing Rock Sioux and other Native American tribes have been protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline that is meant to travel 1,172 miles and cross under the Missouri River north of the Standing Rock Sioux community, which could potentially threaten the tribe’s water supply and disrupt ancestral lands. Protesters have been shot with rubber bullets and sprayed with tear gas and water during freezing temperatures. Duran notes that the violence towards Native American protesters isn’t anything new, mentioning the two demonstrations at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, once in the 1890s and the other in 1973, among others.
The body painter and airbrush artist said he was just going about a normal day, working on illustrations at his computer, and got fed up. “I was like ‘fuck this,’” he says. Duran is creating the piece for two reasons: to raise awareness and to bring the arts community together. Duran says about a dozen people have volunteered their time and skills, and even more people donated paints, supplies and other resources. Someone even brought by pancakes.
Duran, who is part Blackfoot and Apache, said his dad saw what he was doing on Facebook and told him that his grandparents would be very proud.
Friday marks the seventh day Duran and his helping hands have been working on the mural. He says it continues to be a work in progress and to expect him to be out there painting this First Friday.
The characters do not represent anyone specific but the conflict as a whole. “I’m not capturing police in the best light,” he says, but adds that it’s what’s actually happening. “You can’t church it up.”