What Lifts You? How Kelsey Montague’s Public Art is Building a Global Community

Kelsey Montague’s murals invite passersby to interact with art

Kelsey Montague is from a family of artists. From a young age, she knew she wanted to devote her life to doing something creative.

“I always wanted to do things that make people happy, and I think people consistently underestimate positivity. Life can be tough and chaotic,” she says.

After studyied art in Italy and graduated with a degree in Art, Design, and Media from Richmond University in London. Subsequently, Kelsey moved to New York City to explore and better understand the art she wanted to create.

Nolita beginnings

When asked to be part of a public art project in NYC’s Nolita, she jumped at the chance.

“I had an awesome opportunity to paint my first large-scale street art piece on a rotating art wall in Nolita,” says Montague. “I wanted to create a piece that meant a lot to me, but that also allowed other people to become living pieces of art.”

Soon after, pop artist Taylor Swift posed in front of Montague’s mural and posted it to social media. The post went viral, and hundreds of people began lining up to take a picture with Montague’s trademark wings and hashtag “#WhatLiftsYou.”

“Five years ago, when Swift stood with my first pair of wings in New York, it just filled me with so much hope,” Montague tells Refinery29 in a recent interview. “It was such a huge opportunity. It was like something clicked and I thought, ‘I’m going to be known as an interactive street artist. I’m going to pursue this as my career.’”

Kelsey Montague in Nashville

Nashville residents can experience the beauty of the #WhatLiftsYou public art campaign in their own backyard. In 2016, Montague created a massive set of wings on 11th Avenue South in The Gulch. The wings stand 20 feet high and took 60 paint pens to create.

In 2018, Kelsey Montague came back to Nashville. She came to create a gorgeous hot air balloon mural on the side of The Cleo in East Nashville. Her latest visit to Nashville, in April of 2019, was to create another large-scale wing mural—commissioned by Taylor Swift herself, to tease her latest album.

All around the world, men, women, children, and even pets are enjoying and interacting with Montague’s murals, uploading pictures to social media and creating a global community for the #WhatLiftsYou movement.

Kelsey Montague is thrilled at the response to her public art campaign, saying, “What I see every day with #WhatLiftsYou is that people need a moment to reflect on what is truly important to them. They also need that opportunity to share something positive about themselves with the world. To be a little bit more. I’m giving people that opportunity. And the fun of interactive art is that people are so creative!”

Montague and her sister, Courtney, created an interactive map to show new and existing mural locations all over the world, in the hope that the #WhatLiftsYou movement will continue to inspire creativity and positivity.

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