Alleyway Artists Leaving Their Mark

Published online: Dec 02, 2020 Articles
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Murals create perfect selfie worthy spots for the avid Instagrammer of the mom looking to get a cute picture of all of the kids. Many of us have passed by the large paintings by Villa and hidden within alleyways, such as Pugsslane on B St., but do you know the face behind the alleyway art? IFM staff sat down with two artists of varying styles to get an inside look at what it takes to be a successful artist in our area. 

Q&A with Kristine Burnham

Q: What inspired you to apply for the mural project on Villa’s building?

A: When I saw the call to artists, I just knew that it was something I wanted for the community, whether I got chosen or not. I just thought it was a great idea. I’m really excited about doing projects like those. I had also previously been able to participate in the bench project. I’ve done one by Great Harvest and another one on the Riverwalk. I just love these projects. They’re good for the arts community and for tourism. 

Q: What was your process in creating the design?

A: I’m a graphic designer for INL, and so doing a mural was a little bit out of my comfort zone. I’d never done one, but I decided to go ahead and submit a couple of ideas for it. I had no idea what to expect or what they were looking for. I didn’t know how my idea would stack up against other artists, but I decided to submit anyway. I started by going to several of the locations they had identified. I took some pictures and from there I worked up some designs. 

Q: What inspired your mural?

A: When I think of Idaho or what makes Idaho unique. We’ve got mountains, rivers and beautiful landscapes like the sand dunes. I tried to graphically represent as many of those things as I could, Why I like to live in Idaho is what showed up in the final design.

Q: What inspires your art?

A: I have a degree in advertising design and I’ve been a designer INL since 1989. Ever since I was in kindergarten, I just remember loving to paint and draw. It was kind of an easy choice for me when I went to college to find an art related career. 

All of my experience as a graphic designer helped me with this project more so than my experience as a fine artist, shapes and colors were a big part of this mural and just having that background was helpful.

Q: What led you to follow art as a career path?

A: Going into college, I didn’t want to be a starving artist. Studying the commercial end of graphic design seemed a reasonable choice. So, rather than getting a degree in the fine arts, I got it in advertising design because I felt like it was maybe a more marketable choice. It sounds like a sellout and it is to a certain degree, but it was a good choice for me. It’s the best of both worlds—I get to be super creative. For example, my work at INL is so varied. It ranges anywhere from doing a technical illustration of a nuclear reactor to designing logos.

Q: What advice do you have for Idaho Falls youth that are interested in art as a career path?

A: I would say seize every opportunity that presents itself. For example, I participated in the sculptural searing project a couple of times. It’s important to take advantage of opportunities and to just get as involved as you can.

Q&A with Gibby Smede

Q: How did you get into art? 

A: It’s actually a pretty distinct moment. I was in the second grade and I was struggling somewhat with the actual class stuff and my teacher took me out in the hall and she was like, “Look, you were born to be an artist and that’s easy for you, but you have to work on these things.” I loved her. Her name was Mrs. Michelle Ball. She was my teacher at Sunnyside Elementary. She told me that and as a kid and I thought, “Oh, okay. I guess that’s where I am now.” I never stopped believing it. 

Q: How did you get into Puggslane and all of the involvement that you’ve had in public art downtown? 

A: It started out as a pipe dream that I would talk about with my dad. We would go to Freak Alley in Boise and we would say, “Why don’t we have anything like that?” We would just talk about it like we were going to do it. Then I had to figure out a senior project and I figured, why not actually try to get at least one alley? And that’s just kind of how that started up. It was just up to communicating with the building owners and communicating with people in the community to do it.

Q: How does the process of painting in the alleyway work?

A: It’s all basically through email. I also have a sign posted on the side of the alleyway with contact information. From there, if the sign is appropriate and not offensive to the public, then it’s pretty much an automatic yes. I don’t want to censor anybody out so long as it’s not offensive.

Q: Do you think they’ll likely paint over certain ones in the future? 

A: I would really like to have an event eventually where everything’s painted over and then people come and they’ll paint all at once to fill it up again. 

Q: What is something that inspires or motivates you?

A: I work at the Crisis Center as a psych tech. I always thought if I made it big as an artist or if I was making a good amount of money that I would always be trying to funnel it into mental health. For example, with the Crisis Center we get a lot of our money based on donations. You never really know the benefit of a place like that unless you have to go in or you work there. I think a lot of people don’t notice that, but I see a lot of future opportunities to fundraise for them in the future.

Q: What is it that excites you about murals?

A: The process can be very uncomfortable, so I can’t even put it on that. The actual act of making a mural is not fun really, but it's something about the look of them and how bold they are because of the scale. I love how they look and I love how people may pay more attention to them than they would a painting because it is just so expansive. 

#muralmonday in downtown Idaho Falls! 

We have very much enjoyed showing off our downtowners posing in front of our murals downtown and using the hashtag #muralmonday. According to Wikipedia, the most trusted source on the interwebs (ha!), Public Art “refers to a specific art genre with its own professional and critical discourse. It represents art in any media whose form, function and meaning are created for the public through a public process.”  

Why is public art and these murals important to downtown? Our murals, we hope, create a better sense of identity to our community to connect us to where we live, the rich history of our downtown, and create a memorable experience downtown. It creates a place where economic growth and art collide for the better good. 

It has been a very exciting process for us to install murals in the downtown, that you will read about in this special section this year. We love watching people enjoy them, pose in front of them, and post their selfies. Be sure if you are downtown posting your selfie or photo, you use the hashtag #beadowntowner. We cannot wait to see what you do! 

Click here to read more of our December issue.


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