Kelsey Montague is one of Taylor Swift’s favorite artists, and her work is now in Vail

Kelsey Montague (left) and her sister Courtney at work in the bright Vail sunshine on Monday. The mural is located at the Vail Village Parking Structure's P2 entrance.
Casey Russell |

Kelsey Montague had no idea that Taylor Swift had personally commissioned her art until she had completed the piece and was about to cut the ribbon.

Media conglomerate ABC asked her to come out to Nashville to create a butterfly and rainbow themed mural — right up her alley. She thought they were just giving her the opportunity to make some art. All the feedback she was receiving, however, was Taylor’s own words, being relayed through the third party. Swift came out and surprised Montague at the formal unveiling, which, as it turns out, was a mural promoting her new single, “ME!,” with Panic! At The Disco’s Brendan Urie.

The pop star ignited a social media craze for Montague’s work in 2014 when she posed in front Montague’s first interactive mural in New York City’s Nolita, which showcased her famous “wings” style interactive mural. Since then, Vanessa Hudgens and a Victoria’s Secret model have posed with the Nolita mural. The original post is still up on Swift’s Instagram stories.

“The fact that she’s been following Kelsey for five years is just amazing,” said Courtney Montague, her younger sister’s self-described “logistics girl.”

“She’s super important to me and another creative I really respect, so to create something for one of her new songs was awesome,” Montague said.

Support Local Journalism

Montague’s Vail mural, located on the West P2 exit from the Vail Village Parking Structure, explodes with color as part of the Art in Public Places initiative, which is bringing artists to Vail to beautify parking garages. Each mural will beautify part of the parking garages. The summer kicks off with Montague’s brightness this month, and tomorrow, June 26, she will give a book signing at the Four Seasons Resort & Residences from 4-5 p.m.

Her book, “What Lifts Your Heart,” is an adult coloring book inspired by both her aesthetic and the broader meaning behind her work. She paints the hashtag “#whatliftsyou” on each mural she creates, encouraging visitors to share positivity on social media with their photo-ops.

“It’s such a cool community, I’m so thankful that it’s grown to what it has today. We wanted it to be inspiring and we wanted to let people share something positive,” Montague said.

The wings motif came from Montague’s grandfather. He was also an artist, and he’d paint a bird in every one of his pictures. The sisters grew up going to his studio and took inspiration from it.

Often, when Montague paints murals, she brings along older sister Courtney and sometimes her father, Clay, comes too. Both Clay and Courtney were helping Kelsey paint the mural on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday this week.

Courtney and Kelsey, who grew up in Littleton and now live in Denver, are fourth-generation Coloradoans, so they were excited make art in a place they’ve loved for so long. The theme of the interactive piece, a butterfly garden with swings that people can appear to be sitting on, is directly inspired by the town.

”We grew up going to Vail. There’s just this amazing energy. It’s so vibrant and fun and it’s just kind of this magical place,” Kelsey said. “Whenever I go up to Vail, I feel like I’m walking into another world. I wanted that feeling when people see this mural.”

Not only that, but adding a colorful mural to the drab parking garage helps beautify a public space that people often pass by without another thought, Courtney said.

From left: Clay, Courtney and Kelsey Montague pose in front of the half-complete mural outside the Vail Village parking garage. The family is fourth-generation Colorado native.
Casey Russell |

While Montague’s signature style will shine through, she’s never done a mural quite like this.

“It will hopefully just be an explosion of happiness,” Montague said.

Montague’s schedule is booked out for the rest of the year creating art, and she has her first solo gallery exhibition at a gallery in Los Angeles this year. Her work has shown at Art Basel Miami Beach and can be found in North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia.

The Art in Public Places series continues with Pedro Barrios and Jaime Molina, Denver artists who’ve done work for the Denver Art Museum. They will paint a mural in July on the Lionshead Village garage’s east P1 entrance. Pat Milbery/So-Gnar, Inc., the professional-snowboarder-turned-artist, will round out the summer in August with a mural on the Village Parking structure’s central P1 entrance. Milbery is most well-known for his “Love This City” art campaign in Denver.

Support Local Journalism