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Provo business partners with London artist for mural of endangered species in Utah

By Shelby Slade daily Herald - | Aug 9, 2017
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Louis Masai painted a mural of several Gunnison sage grouse on a wall in downtown Provo.

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London artist Louis Masai works on the mural of Gunnison sage grouse.

There’s a little more color in downtown Provo now, thanks to a collaboration between Nu Skin and a London artist.

On the side of a wall near Nu Skin’s office on Center Street, Louis Masai painted a group of Gunnison sage grouse, as part of his efforts to highlight the situation the endangered species and the planet are in.

The piece, which incorporates a lot of bright and vivid colors, also operates as a call to action, Masai said.

“We are inside the sixth extinction, which has been brought on by humans as opposed to a natural disaster, and I find that fascinating,” Masai said. “But I also recognize that we are in a position we’re we can rectify these problems but if people don’t know about them how can we fix things and resolve things.”

The mural, which was painted over the course of five days in mid-July depicts an adult male and female Gunnison sage grouse, an endangered bird native to southern parts of Utah and Colorado, as well as a baby bird.

The adult birds are painted in a colorful patchwork style, which Masai said denotes they are toys rather than the living bird.

“The point being that the patchwork is a toy and for me that raises this issue there is nothing left,” he said. “There’s just this souvenir and I’m posing a question to the audience: Is this really it? Is this really where you see things going? Does this not upset you, concern you? Do you not think we should do something about this?”

However, the baby is painted as a it really would look and is meant to convey hope for the future.

“Actually the baby is living for one reason: I wanted it to be a point of optimism and hope in that perhaps the species can continue because there is this one living baby, which means that if there is a baby of the other sex then the species can continue,” he said.

Masai said his work often features endangered animals and he hopes that by bringing these animals to people’s attention things can change.

“Other people have had different interpretations of it (the art), but that’s what’s good about art,” Masai said. “I can have the reason why I’ve done it but that doesn’t mean I’m going to get that same reaction from all of the audience. People will have different ideas, and to me, they are all valuable.”

“I think what I have achieved is that people globally know if I’m doing something there’s a reason behind it,” he added.

Leah Cadavona, vice president of global brand strategy for Nu Skin, said the mural brings some color and unique images to what was once a bare stretch of wall in the center of downtown Provo.

The mural came out of the company’s push for innovation and a routine, informal meeting they have to discuss ideas. When someone pitched the idea for a mural in that space, Nu Skin started looking into it and interviewing artists.

That’s where they found out about Masai and the unique work he does.

“He (Masai) does unique pieces; he never repeats anything,” she said. “His art will only be created one time and it will be unique for the area.”

Cadavona said they also worked with Masai to make sure the mural was able to be something the international visitors could connect with. Among the patchwork, are different scraps of patterns like Pac Man, watermelons and anchors — there’s always something to look at and connect to.

So far, they’ve already seen employees, community members and passers by stopping to look at the mural.

“Part of the reason we wanted to beautify the space was to have something not only for employees to look at and enjoy but also for the community. We were born and bred in Provo and we are loud and proud about that. We have always wanted to play an active part of that community.”

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