Kelsey Montague is a visual artist most known for her large-scale, interactive street murals around the world. Each of her pieces provides an opportunity for people to step into the work and become a ‘living work of art.’ Thousands of people have posted pictures of her work — and their interaction with it — on social media under the hashtag #WhatLiftsYou. With over 40,000 followers Kelsey uses her Instagram (@KelseyMontagueArt) to continue to explore how art can, and should, lift us up on a daily basis.
Kelsey’s art first went viral in 2014, when pop star Taylor Swift posted this picture on Instagram in front of her mural in New York City’s Nolita neighborhood. And in 2016, Kelsey created one of her signature wings installations just one door down from Barry’s Nashville.
To celebrate our new Venice opening, Kelsey has painted her first set of wings in Los Angeles (her largest ever!) on the south-facing exterior wall of our studio. She’s painted a second mural, her first barbell, on another wall near the building’s entrance.
Barry’s launches the limited edition Kelsey Montague capsule collection on Monday, February 27, available online and in every Barry’s studio. The collection marks the first time Kelsey’s designs have been used on activewear. The men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing features the exact designs that Kelsey painted for Barry’s in Venice.
We caught up with Kelsey to learn more about her and why her art is such a perfect match for Barry’s.
Barry’s: For those reading this who might be unfamiliar with your art, what’s the message behind your work?
Kelsey: I really believe that art shouldn’t just be about the artist. It should be about the community and about the individual viewer of the art. That is why my art invites people inside, to take a picture and then reflect on it on social media. That is also why I started the hash-tags with my art. #WhatLiftsYou is a way for people to take their interaction with my art one step further and reflect on what really matters in life.
Q: What’s the genesis of your wings project? How did you first get started painting them?
A: My great-grandfather, grandfather, and mom (and uncle) are all artists. So, I grew up surrounded by art. My grandfather always used to paint a bird in each of his watercolors. To him it was spiritual. When I had the opportunity to paint my first large-scale street art piece in NY I really wanted to do a set of wings – something that people could interact with. It was only later that I realized the connection.
Q: What’s the most interesting story you have about someone who’s interacted before with your art? Perhaps the story of someone who’s taken a pic that has an inspirational story?
A: I have had a lot of inspirational stories. Two stand out. Recently I was sent the ‘bucket list’ of a young woman who had about 3 months left to live (she was dying of cancer) and visiting and taking a picture with my wings in Nashville was on it. That was incredibly humbling.
That same week a Mom emailed me on Facebook with a picture of her daughter, who just conquered cancer, in front of the wings. She conveyed to me how much the wings and that picture in that particularly profound moment of her daughter’s life made her feel.
Q: How did you first connect with Barry’s? First with the Nashville painting, and now with Venice?
Barry’s was one door down from the Nashville wings I created last year. Barry’s is about self-transformation, inside and out, and what better way to tell that story than with wings J I also love the fact Barry’s was interested in having a barbell near their entrance. I have always wanted to do that piece because it’s fun, playful but also really about strength – both inside and out! My work is a perfect fit for this amazing company.
Q: What can you tell us about the new Venice mural?
A: This is my first winged mural in LA! And it’s my first barbell (and baby barbell!)! This is also the biggest set of wings I have ever created.
I was so happy to bring my work to Barry’s and to Barry’s in Venice, specifically. I have always loved Venice and the sense of community I get whenever I come here. I was not disappointed, so many people came up to tell me ‘thank you’ for creating this for our community while I painted. It meant so much to me.
Q: What are your hopes for the installation at Barry’s Venice?
A: I just hope that the community enjoys these pieces and that the Barry’s community knows how special they are. Joey is an awesome person and you can see that in the business he’s built from the ground up!