Seeing the Big Picture
Over the last few years, Spokane's vertical surfaces have become noticeably more lively. Where boring, bare or graffiti-tagged brick or concrete once existed you can now find myriad displays of artistic talent. Some of this comes down to Spokane Arts and the city of Spokane actively working together to find more urban canvasses for local and international artists. And some of it comes down to individuals and organizations such as arts groups, neighborhood councils and business associations seeing the big picture and recognizing that the value of public art goes far beyond mere prettification — it's also about the process of placemaking, that is, turning an otherwise mundane location into a special destination.
Artist: Ellen Picken
Where to find it: Peaceful Valley
Funded by the city of Spokane's Cleaning from the Corridor initiative and carried out by volunteers, Picken's angular design was a natural choice for a graphic mural on these concrete viaduct supports. This was a newer, professional addition to some older grassroots murals located nearby.
Where to find it: Emerson-Garfield
In the relatively short time it's been installed, the vintage postcard-style Welcome to North Monroe mural on the side of Brickyard Barbershop has already become a popular selfie backdrop. It symbolizes a joint effort between business owners, local artists, the city of Spokane and Spokane Arts.
Artist: Karl Addison
Where to find it: Riverside (downtown)
Titled Nova, this 290-foot-long abstract work went up in September 2015 along the elevated railway tracks near Barrister Winery. Addison is an international artist who's the creative force behind dozens of murals and street art as far afield as Moscow (that's Russia, not Idaho), Berlin and Tokyo.
Artist: Daniel Lopez
Where to find it: East Central
Inspired by the finches near the artist's apartment, the Altamont Street mural replaced an aging one that seemed out of place amid the newly revitalized East Sprague Business District. Although Lopez has painted a number of recent murals across Spokane, an ever-expanding concentration of his work can now be found throughout the Garland Business District.
Sending a Signal
During the early stages of their careers, it's just as tough for artists as it is for anyone else starting out in the big, wide world. As a matter of fact, it might even be a little bit tougher. Not only do artists have to demonstrate a distinctive individual style in a field where originality reigns supreme, they also have to rely on relatively small pools of available funding. The ongoing Signal Box Project is providing a platform for many up-and-coming artists to create their first piece of public artwork, which they can then use to boost their portfolio and secure larger projects. Spokane Arts has also doubled the Signal Box design stipend as part of its broader goal to help artists make their careers more sustainable in the long term. In doing so, the city as a whole is making a strong statement of support to a new generation of artists.
Artist: Marina Gulova
Where to find it: Corner of Second & Monroe
This signal box, which resembles a fusion of iconic Russian and Indian forms and patterns, was one of Gulova's earliest pieces of public art. Not long after it was installed in 2015, she was asked to do a skywalk installation that was sponsored by the Downtown Spokane Partnership. Another of the artist's designs is featured at Second & Howard.
Artist: Ian Amberson
Where to find it: Corner of Nevada & Francis
Like staring at a "magic eye" illusion, what seems at first like an abstract farrago reveals itself to be a dynamic interplay of lines, curves and shading. Amberson and another local artist, Chelsea Martin, have since gone on to launch Spokane Zine Fest, an annual celebration of the local zine scene. Martin's own signal box is scheduled to be installed in late 2018.
Artist: Remelisa Cullitan Stillinger
Where to find it: Corner of Market & Francis
The mesmerizing marbling effect of this signal box evokes billowing chemical reactions or a sky full of storm clouds on some distant planet. Situated at a busy intersection not far from Hillyard Skatepark, it marks the artist's first-ever piece of public art. Stillinger has since co-founded the arts venture Glitter Couch with Brittany Decker, another first-time signal box artist (see it at Third & Stevens).