Painting the Town: Portraying Boulder’s Essence

Photo Courtesy Peggy Sands. All rights reserved.

When artist Peggy Sands entered the Elevations Credit Union mural contest, she was skeptical.

So skeptical, she nearly ignored the call for entries to capture in art what she most loves about Boulder.

The winning artist would paint the design on a beetle-kill wall in the newly remodeled Elevations Credit Union branch located on Boulder’s Diagonal Highway.

Sands liked the idea of creating a large painting in Boulder. As an accomplished artist with work in collections in Sedona, Arizona, Italy and all over the world, she knew the competition would be tough. “So many people will apply, I don’t even want to do this,” thought Sands.

But she reconsidered.

On the last day for entries, Sands made a list of the things she loves about Boulder. It was short, but to the 3-year-new Boulder resident, the few words said it all: mountains, music, mall, sports.

Then she drew up her submission. “If I don’t try, I’ll never win,” she reasoned.


Peggy Sands winning mural at Elevations Credit Union Boulder Diagonal Branch. Photo courtesy of Peggy Sands. All rights reserved.

The Motivation 

A not-for-profit financial cooperative owned by its members, Elevations Credit Union wanted to infuse the newly remodeled flagship branch with a sense of place.

“We looked for new, surprising ways to connect with the community we call home,” describes Jay Champion, Chief Operating Officer at Elevations Credit Union.

“We asked local artists to submit their designs for a mural to create on a beetle kill wall in our branch’s Community Room, a space where we host seminars and community events,” says Champion. “The response was fantastic – we received 42 entries, and 1,700 members of our community voted for their favorite entry on our Facebook page.”

“The winner was Peggy Sands’ design, and her expertly crafted mural is a wonderful depiction of why we love where we live,” he adds.


Photo courtesy of Elevations Credit Union.

Work on the approximately 25-foot by 6-foot richly colored acrylic mural began in March.  Sands, a customer of Elevations Credit Union, painted in the evenings after business hours to complete the work.

The Boulder Source caught up with Peggy Sands to find out more about the artist. Following is our conversation, edited for length.

Boulder Source: Tell us a little about yourself.

Sands: I’m an artist and also do graphic design. I have lived all over the world in India and in Italy and now I’m in Boulder. I lived for eleven years in a spiritual community, the OSHO Community … We were in India for a total of six or seven years and then we moved to America. We meditated two hours a day and worked in the commune the rest of the time. It was fabulous.

Boulder Source: Where are you from originally?


Photo courtesy of Elevations Credit Union.

Sands: I grew up in New York. I was living in Sedona painting and teaching art workshops. In 2008, when the economy crashed everyone signed up to attend my fall workshops canceled in the space of two days – all except for one person. It was amazing.

At the same time, I was contacted by a friend who needed a graphic designer. He said you’re the only one who can do the brochure I need. I did the design and that was it; I said, ‘Well I guess I’m going to be a graphic designer for a while now.’

Boulder Source: What brought you to Boulder?

Sands: Sedona had been a great place for the art workshops I had been teaching. But as a graphic designer, I started looking for another place to live where there was a vibrant community, a place that had some spiritual presence and a good economy. One of my best friends from childhood said come to Boulder to visit. I fell in love; this is such a beautiful place. Then I got on the bike paths and they were manicured. I like to bike. When I’m on my bike, life is great. And that was it, I was done. And I moved here at the beginning of 2013.

Boulder Source: How did you hear about the Elevations mural contest?


Photo courtesy of Elevations Credit Union.

Sands: Elevations is my bank and they sent out a call for entries. I just made a list of all of the things I love about this area and drew them up. It’s got a biker, a rock climber and a skier, because we’re all about sports here. It’s got the mountains and Pearl Street Mall and a guitar player on the mall. And there’s a line of music running through it because there’s a lot of really good live music here and I love live music.

These days I paint large scale acrylics that look like watercolor. I do that by pouring on flat surfaces. Then I walk away and come back and start manipulating the paint and then pour some more. When I do this style it looks like watercolors. You can’t pour paint when the boards are mounted on a wall, so I adjusted my process.

Boulder Source: How has winning made a difference in your life?

Sands: When I first came to Boulder, I threw art and design out the window and became a baker. I kind of forgot about painting for a while. And then when I did the mural, it rekindled my interest. It’s as if you had this great passionate love affair all of your life with someone and then they went away, and you kind of forgot about it. And then you get together and the passion comes back to life. I got a brush and paint in my hands and I thought, ‘How could I have forgotten this, how did I let this go?’

So now I have a studio and I’m applying for other projects.  I’m so grateful to Elevations for that.

So Go

You can view the mural at Elevations Credit Union, 2960 Diagonal Highway. To see more of Peggy Sands work, visit or

Watch the video interview with Peggy Sands, produced by Elevations Credit Union.

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