Downtown Idaho falls is getting more colorful.
The Downtown Development Corporation, a city agency charged with revitalizing downtown Idaho Falls, has multiple projects planned to add public works of art in various locations around downtown.
One project includes wrapping traffic cabinets with paintings by some of eastern Idaho’s best-known artists. Another project is a wall mural, which is being painted this week.
“Public art will be a main focus of the downtown landscape moving forward as we continue to grow,” said Catherine Smith, executive director of the Downtown Development Corporation. “Public art really adds to the experience of a downtown.”
For one such project, the Downtown Development Corporation partnered with the Art Museum of Eastern Idaho to spruce up downtown traffic cabinets with artwork.
Traffic cabinets are the metal boxes near street corners that hold controls for traffic lights. Typically, the boxes are a bland, silvery metal color and probably go unnoticed by most people
Downtown boxes are being wrapped in a weather-resilient vinyl cover, cut and installed by Sign Pro, a local sign company.
Miyai Abe Griggs, executive director of the art museum, was tasked with suggesting to the Public Arts Committee which pieces in the museum’s collection would fit nicely on the cabinets.
She said the cabinets, like any type of public art, are warming up the community.
“It adds some pop of color to an otherwise drab but functional and necessary part of downtown,” Griggs said. “They’re just a necessary part of your space and you might as well dress it up and make it interesting to look at.”
In addition to adding some color to downtown, the project is a way to show off the work of locals artists and hopefully draw people to the art museum, Griggs said, where many of the pieces now adorned on the cabinets are either in a gallery or in storage at the museum, waiting to be shown.
”All the artwork I selected from our collection are pieces from well-established, well-known artists in our area,” Griggs said. “I make sure to keep it within that realm.”
The final selections include “Amsterdam Spring Tulips” by Joe Keller, “Midday and Morning” by Marilyn Hansen, “The Gesture Steel Tears” by Larry Blackwood, “Alpenglow II” by Ruth Stringam Nordstrom, “Apple Blossoms” by Roy Reynolds, “East-side” by Gloria Miller Allen and “Self-portrait: Born Under the Sign of Gemini” by Margie Zirker.
Additionally, through a contest hosted by the ARTitorium on Broadway, two elementary school children had their artwork placed on a traffic cabinet.
Smith, who has an artistic background, said she hopes the art projects will draw visitors to downtown, keep locals coming back and energize local artists who might want to participate in a future project.
One local artist who answered a posting for the opportunity to paint a mural downtown is Kelly Sheridan, a landscape painter and art teacher at Compass Academy.
Sheridan, 25, of Idaho Falls, will be painting a wall mural — 30 feet wide and 8 feet tall — in the alley off Park Avenue in between A Street and B Street. The mural is a collaboration between the Downtown Development Corporation and the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho.
Sheridan said she’s never painted a mural of this size, a daunting task because of the planning that goes into painting in a public space. But, she remains excited, she said.
“I think the greatest opportunity is visibility,” Sheridan said. “I’m excited to be able to reach a wider audience. You get to access people who aren’t in art galleries or walking around with the intention to experience art.”
Sheridan’s mural is one of three murals around Idaho planned by the state branch of the American Civil Liberties Union.
“The mural will respond to the theme of protecting our civil liberties,” Sheridan said. “It’s going to represent the unique and special qualities of the people who live in Idaho.”
She added, “My take on it is going to be celebrating the people who live here and highlighting how we interact and communicate with each other.”
Sheridan will employ the help of some of her students to paint the mural. The project will require attention to detail and work ethic, Sheridan said, traits encouraged at Compass Academy.
The Downtown Development Corporation has secured funding for two new large-scale murals to be completed in 2019, Smith said.