Found across the city, there are murals, sculptures and other public artworks in the Spokane region designed to educate, commemorate, celebrate and more. If you are a fan of Spokane art and artists, then be sure to add these installations to your list and discover them for yourself!
While plenty of attention is paid to public art pieces that spark controversy, public art serves many roles, not the least of which is enlivening public spaces with imagery, color and design. It can commemorate important people, places and events. It can create or augment a sense of place. Public art can be serious, silly, or something in between.
And yes, it can even spark people to think, act or feel something about the work and what it represents.
Spokane's 7 Best Art Installations
COMMEMORATING IDAHO HISTORY
There’s an obvious theme to the bronze figurative sculptures overlooking Coeur d’Alene’s McEuen Park, all of which were created by North Idaho artist Terry Lee: Idaho history. In addition to “American Worker,” “Idaho Lumberjack” and “Idaho Farmer,” Lee added “The Suffragist” in summer 2020. It commemorates the 100th anniversary of Idaho’s ratification of the 19th Amendment recognizing women’s equal right to vote, which may or may not be relevant to an act of vandalism occurring earlier this year in which someone spray-painted “Beta Males” on the piece (the paint has since been cleaned off, and no further incidents have been reported).
In summer 2022, “The Miner” was added to the growing pantheon of permanent art along Front Avenue, which may continue to expand in coming years. Lee is currently working on a 1940s-era nurse from Farragut Naval Station and a historic Army soldier.
MANITO PARK SWANS
Swans have (sort of) returned to Manito Park after a 16-year absence. In the early 1900s, a well-wishing resident imported the majestic white birds to the South Hill park, but not everyone was a fan. By 2006, the remaining pair descended from the original gaggle of mute swans had been permanently silenced.
This spring, the swans were resurrected in the form of two lifesize avian sculptures created by local artist Vincent De Felice and funded by Washington Trust Bank. Titled “Love Birds,” they’re the first public art piece to grace Manito Park’s 78 acres, and they reside near the recently revamped Mirror Pond.
The swans face each other, their necks forming a heart, which makes for a great photo. The swans’ bodies are abstracted so that there are no sharp edges, making them ideal for climbing. And because they’re made of bronze, there’s every possibility this pair will endure indefinitely.
SPOKANE CITY LINE BUS STOP SHELTERS
Riding the bus is better with a sheltered waiting area and clearly identifiable bus stops. Spokane Transit Authority’s ambitious new City Line project will accomplish both those things when it rolls out in 2023, with eight shelters featuring the work of local artists through Spokane Arts’ Art in Transit program.
Four shelters are already visible — two from each artist, one for the eastbound stop and the other westbound — each helping to establish a sense of place in their respective communities. Look for Joshua Thomas’ “Symphony Station” flanking the Fox Theater at Monroe Street where it intersects First and Sprague avenues.
Jimei “Mei” Lin’s work “The Melody We Share” celebrates diversity, including contributions of Japanese and Chinese community members, and can be found on Division Street where it crosses Main and Riverside avenues.
Find out more about the city’s Art in Transit and other public arts programs at the Spokane Arts Website.
We tend to think of murals as being on the wall, but Spokane’s Hoopfest murals are on another large, flat surface where everyone’s looking: the basketball court. Beginning in 2020, Spokane Arts teamed up with Hooptown USA, MultiCare Health System and selected artists to create a unique background for on-court action at area parks’ public courts.
The murals completed to date include courts in Peaceful Valley (by Tiffany Patterson), Chief Garry Park and Riverfront Park (both by Joshua Martel), and Thornton Murphy Park (by Nick Goettling).
The most recently completed Hoopfest mural is by Ruben Marcilla, who happens to also be a longstanding sign painter for Avista Stadium. Marcilla’s design at Franklin Park celebrates the Spokane River, Salish language and Spokane Tribe, who sponsored the mural along with Spokane Indians baseball.
Overlooking Riverfront Park and the Spokane River, The Podium is Spokane’s much-heralded new sports facility. Spokane Public Facilities District, which operates the multifunctional 135,000-square-foot space, commissioned two art pieces for it that channel both playfulness and grandeur.
“Chromasphere” is located inside the facility, yet visible from the exterior, especially at night. It features 11 suspended, basket-like structures that glow in different colors and was created by Washington State University Professor Taiji Miyasaka and Clayton Binkley, a Seattle artist and engineer.
“Aspire,” which was created by an international artists’ collaborative called Acrylicize, is a freestanding sculptural installation on the park-facing side of the building. Individual metal panels on the piece can be engraved with information celebrating significant athletic accomplishments related to The Podium’s diverse users.
SPOKANE PUBLIC LIBRARY’S READING FIGURES
Situated in the grass outside the Shadle Park Library are several painted cutout figures by Jasmine Iona Brown, which reinforce the library’s sense of place as a repository of knowledge. Although untitled, the flat figures are colloquially referred to as “The Readers.” Their colors — green, goldenrod, orange — mirror the natural surroundings, as well as the iconic green-and-yellow Shadle Park reservoir tank.
Brown’s sculptures are part of a comprehensive program to infuse the Spokane Public Library system with artwork, both inside and out. Visit spokanelibrary.org for a list of permanent and rotating artwork.