Evoking a sense of wonder and discovery
By Kris Leonhardt
MMC Senior Editor
LEDGEVIEW – On June 23-24, Stevens Point artist Kiba Freeman completed two trail paintings along Ledgeview’s East River Trail, as the third set of installations in the town’s beautification project.
Beautification Committee Chair Nicole Can Helden said that the public art project creates a “vibrant atmosphere that contributes to the quality and cultural identity” of the community.
“We are working to promote art in Ledgeview which encourages cultural expressions, promotes our unique natural beauty, and inspires a sense of civic pride,” she stated.
The public art program and trail painting initiative was launched by the committee in 2021 following a planning process with residents and outside advisors.
Freeman started using spray paint as a medium in 2014, the summer he graduated from UW-Stevens Point where he obtained a bachelor of fine arts.
“I started exploring spray painting. I studied abroad in Italy when I was an undergrad. I saw some artists doing some live painting using spray paint, and I was super-fascinated with the process,” he recalled.
Freeman completed his first mural in 2018 before his daughter Soraiya was born.
“One of the main reasons that I started getting more into mural work a few years ago: I have two kids — at the time I had one — and I wanted her to feel welcome where she was at. One way I can contribute to that is by making things for her to look for or look at, like ‘Oh, that’s me or someone like me.’ So, I started putting my daughter in a lot of my murals as a silhouette; but, she knows that’s her. Anyone else that looks at it sees a silhouette of a kid or a girl with a ponytail … she can go a few places in Point and ‘Oh, that’s me’ or ‘My dad did that, that’s me.’ Or, she can go to Milwaukee and see herself there, or I just did one in Madison, so she can see herself watering some flowers in Madison,” he explained.
Through his creations, Freeman likes to focus on nature and space, evoking emotions through visual storytelling.
One of Freeman’s most notable creations may be viewed on the Worzalla Publishing facility in Stevens Point, though his works may be found throughout Wisconsin.
“At the beginning of every year, I tend to look up a few different organizations to see what kind of mural opportunities are around, as far as public mural calls and that sort of thing,” Freeman stated.
“I came across one for Ledgeview Trails. I was kind of confused about it at first, but whenever I am confused I just reach out and ask questions.
“So I reached out and asked some questions and they informed me that the mural was going to be on the trails themselves. I thought that was a cool idea because then people would literally just see them biking or running.
“I submitted a couple of ideas, and the committee liked both ideas that I submitted, so they hired me to paint them. The murals themselves are spacings. I love doing spacings and exploring the great beyond in my work,” Freeman said, referring to depictions of the universe beyond the earth’s atmosphere.
“Most of the time I make them up. I don’t reference anything specific or particular, I just make a scene that looks interesting or cool to me that I would like to escape to or float through or I imagine myself in.
“I was messaging (someone yesterday) and it was three hours since my last message, and I was like, ‘Sorry, I was in space for a little bit. I just got back.’”
Freeman said that he came up with compositions for the mural, so he has a roadmap for the project with the color scheme and general design concept, but he lets the project flow on its own as he is working.
The trail murals are eight-by-12-foot pieces, using spray paint for 99 percent of its production, along with a bit of paint marker to add a little detail.
“Kiba’s images really evoke a sense of wonder and discovery. We felt that they would be excellent opportunities for children to inquire about space and planets. The colors and images really draw you in,” Helden added.
Freeman’s works may be viewed on the East River Trail near Olde School Square in Ledgeview.