Nestled in the heart of the Pacific Northwest, where the Spokane River winds its way through urban landscapes and peaceful natural beauty, Spokane’s art scene has been quietly gaining momentum for some time. Murals have become a defining feature of Spokane's cultural narrative and arts community, gracing the city with their presence. With every brushstroke, these murals tell stories, pay homage to heritage, ignite conversations, and provide a captivating window into the city's rich culture. So, let's take a tour through Spokane’s Mural Scene.
The Rise of Murals and Urban Art in Spokane
Once overlooked walls and unassuming alleyways have become the canvases for a renaissance of urban art in Spokane. The rise of murals in Spokane isn’t just about color on walls, but a testament to the city's burgeoning art scene. Not to mention, the city’s aspiration to make art accessible and build a stronger community. From the downtown core to historic neighborhoods, murals invite residents and visitors alike to engage with art in unexpected and immersive ways.
Spokane's Unique Canvas
The city's unique canvas – a blend of historic architecture, alleyways, underpasses, basketball courts, and more – provides local artists with an ever-evolving backdrop that challenges and inspires their creative visions. As you wander through Spokane's streets, you'll find murals that range from bold and abstract to intricate and photorealistic.
Vibrant Expressions of Culture and History
Spokane's murals are more than just a little whimsy added to once dingy spaces; they are vibrant expressions of culture and history. Many murals pay homage to the indigenous peoples who have called this region home for centuries, honoring their traditions and resilience. Others tell the stories of the city's evolution – from its early days as a trading hub to its present status as a hub of innovation and creativity.
These urban artworks also offer a platform for social commentary, sparking conversations about topics ranging from environmental conservation to social justice. Murals, once seen as fleeting, are now becoming enduring symbols of the city's ethos and its commitment to embracing change while preserving its roots.
A Tour of *Some* of Spokane's Murals
Downtown: Murals in the Heart of the City
Hidden and in plain sight, as you meander through downtown Spokane you’ll be met with colorful murals on buildings, underpasses, basketball courts, and more. Here are just a few spots to stop and marvel at.
*Photos provided by Spokane Arts
Stevens Street & BNSF underpass
Mural by Matt Smith
Wall Street/BNSF underpass
Mural by Ellen Picken & Erin Mielcareck
Installed 2014, Repaint coming August 2023 by Ellen Picken
Alleyway at 100 N Wall and Howard
Fortune Cats Mural by Erin Johnston & Timothy Lacey III
Mural by Justin Giben & Will Bowe
Lincoln (west wall only)/BNSF underpass
Mural by Melissa Cole
Mural by (Community Group)
Maple and 2nd Avenue
Mural by Todd & Cain Benson
North facing at Stevens Street
Mural by Susan Webber & Shelby Allison
Barrister Winery Alley South facing between Madison & Jefferson
Mural by Karl Addison
Alley at 100 N Post Street
Mural by Tiffany Patterson workshop
Riverfront Park North Bank Basketball Court
Mural by Joshua Martel
North Monroe District: How Murals add Personality to our Districts
The North Monroe District is a shining example of urban revitalization. Once a neglected area, it has been transformed into a vibrant and dynamic neighborhood with a unique character. Central to this transformation are captivating murals. These murals don't merely embellish walls and businesses; they infuse the area with personality, culture, and a sense of identity. Each mural tells a story and fosters a strong sense of pride among residents and visitors alike. As people stroll through the North Monroe District, these murals serve as a visual testament to the power of art in rejuvenating and breathing new life into urban spaces.
North Monroe facing south next to Gerardo’s Mexican restaurant
Mural by Tiffany Patterson & Mick Burson
Tossed & Found
Mural by Daniel Lopez
“Greetings from North Monroe”
Mural by Nick Lewis, Aaron Abolofia, Melissa Aboblofia, and Daniel Lopez
Mural by Jeremy Vermillion
The North Monroe District also highlights some amazing murals by talented female muralists on including two by Karli Fairbanks (on the Lloyd Building northside as well as the front of the Chop Shop), one by Jiemei Lin at the Paramount Building, and one by Mallory Battista at Blossom's Antiques.
For more on Murals on Monroe, head to: https://meetonmonroe.com/mural-art-on-monroe/
Garland District: Alleyway turned rotating community canvas
In 2019, a creative spark ignited in the Garland District of Spokane, Washington, when local enthusiast Julie Shepard connected with artists Todd and Cain Benson. Shepard’s vision of transforming neglected spaces into vibrant outdoor art galleries set the stage for an inspiring journey of community revitalization. It all began with a single wall in an alley, which quickly evolved into an ever-changing tapestry of art and imagination.
Pooling their creative energies, the trio hatched a unique concept: to transform the alley into an open-air gallery, showcasing the talents of local artists while fostering a sense of unity among residents. What started as a simple training canvas for muralists soon blossomed into a dynamic community event. A vision took shape – to gather artists, music, and a curious public in the alley for a day of live art creation.
Their inaugural event far exceeded expectations, as 25 artists converged to bring life to the alley through vibrant colors and diverse stories. Word spread, and subsequent events followed suit, welcoming street artists from nearby towns and even involving students from the Excelsior School and the Garfield Apple program through SAGA grants. The alley became more than just a backdrop; it became a collaborative space that echoed with creativity.
In the Garland Art Alley, murals range from meticulously planned to spontaneous bursts of inspiration. The community boasts a growing collection of over 30 art pieces, inviting passersby to immerse themselves in an ever-evolving gallery experience. With each stroke, the alley transforms, bridging the gap between tradition and modernity, and inviting contemplation and admiration.
This transformation isn't just about paint on walls; it's about embracing creativity, fostering community pride, and turning an ordinary alley into a must-visit cultural destination. The Garland District's alleyway has become a living testament to the power of art to reshape spaces and create a sense of belonging. As photographers, families, and art enthusiasts converge to celebrate this urban canvas, the alley is more than a background – it's a masterpiece in progress. One day, Shepard aspires to have an open-air gallery that encompasses 5 blocks from Howard Street to Madison Street.
Preserving the Urban Canvas: Challenges and Conservation
Battling Nature's Elements: Weather and Wear
While murals breathe life into Spokane's walls, they also face an ongoing battle with the elements. As a four season destination, harsh weather, from rain and snow to powerful sun, can take a toll on these outdoor masterpieces. Over time, the vibrancy of colors can fade, and the intricacies of the designs can erode. This dynamic interplay between art and nature adds to the ephemeral beauty of murals, but it also raises questions about their preservation.
Innovative Solutions for Longevity
From UV-resistant coatings to experimental materials, the pursuit of solutions is both creative and dynamic. Spokane Arts and artists are collaborating to ensure that murals remain vivid for generations to come. Sometimes, this means repainting or refreshing a mural when the elements have taken their toll. Spokane’s investment in its artistic community, ensures that its streets continue to be a living gallery.
A Boost for Tourism and Economy
Beyond their artistic and cultural significance, murals play a pivotal role in shaping Spokane's tourism and economy. Art enthusiasts and curious travelers are drawn to the city's colorful streets, capturing Instagram-worthy moments and exploring its distinct neighborhoods. This influx of visitors fuels local businesses, from cafes and galleries to shops and restaurants, creating a ripple effect that contributes to Spokane's economic vibrancy.
Attracting Art Enthusiasts and Visitors
Spokane's mural movement has turned the city into a haven for art enthusiasts and onlookers. Tourists venture off the beaten path, seeking out these urban gems that reveal the city's soul in unexpected ways. Murals offer an authentic, unfiltered experience of Spokane, connecting visitors to its past, present, and future.
Local Businesses and the Mural Movement
The mural movement isn't just about aesthetics; it's a collaborative effort that involves local businesses, artists, and residents. Businesses proudly display murals on their walls, not only beautifying their premises but also supporting the city's artistic identity. One notable mural that invites Instagramers are the angel wings on the side of Brick West Brewing. Additionally, the North Monroe District businesses boast numerous murals on the side of many of their buildings as a part of their 2020 project. This synergy between art and commerce showcases Spokane's commitment to creating a holistic urban experience.
A Colorful Tomorrow on Spokane's Streets
Murals leave a lasting legacy. As they evolve and adapt to the challenges of weather and wear, these art installments continue to be touch points for shared experiences, conversations, and cultural connection. Spokane's murals are more than pigment on walls; they're threads woven into the city's social fabric. Murals bridge gaps and kindle community pride. The murals' stories evolve as the city does, creating a living, breathing urban canvas that tells the tale of a resilient community. Murals, with their stories, colors, and vitality, have embedded themselves in the very essence of Spokane. It’s time to explore.