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From Freak Alley to building backsides: Boise’s mural scene keeps growing

This story is an excerpt from our new book Boise: City of Trees, available for purchase NOW! Order here.

Downtown Boise has long been a place to view art. From outdoor public art pieces, to the Boise Art Museum to Freak Alley and more, finding a work of art has never been hard.

But as the downtown area evolves and grows, a number of otherwise plain walls have started to see a little bit of art. Or, in some cases – a LOT of art.

The trend gained steam in 2014 when Nampa Artist Bobby Gaytan painted a boy playing guitar on the side of the Alaska Center on Main St. The boy sits on a log with oversized shoes and a floating hat hovering over Main St. The graffiti-style mural dressed up the more than century-old building with a flourish.

In 2017, Spokane’s David Carmack Lewis painted the first of three murals downtown, each one bigger and bolder than the last. The first went up on the Watercooler apartments on Idaho St. and spans a 50-foot by 40-foot wall. Called The Big Back Yard, Lewis’ work shows a chair floating in the sky over a dark desert highway with a single set of taillights in the distance. Lewis returned to Boise for another even larger mural on the side of the backside of The Fowler building along Myrtle St. For this work he painted a cloudy sky with pinks and yellows mixed in.

Then, in 2020 he popped back up with Over the Valley on the side of the Key Financial Center showing a river snaking through an Idaho-style mountain valley. Lewis told us he was excited to work on the tall 10-story building.

“I love that road,” he said of the mural’s focal point. “It’s kind of funny, this is such a tall building. The viewpoint is looking down at the valley, even though you are looking up at the mural.”

Local graffiti art Sector Seventeen made its mark downtown, too. The group painted a colorful set of images on the underside of the Connector at Rhodes Skatepark, a mural dedicated to non-profit FACES on the City Center Plaza building, an installation on the backside of the Record Exchange building, and more.

There’s even a mural tucked into a Greenbelt tunnel from Kristen Ramirez, another on the side of The Jefferson from Yulia Avgustinovich and scores more.

The mural scene is ever-changing and evolving, along with the city itself. If you look close, you might find a new piece of art making a dreary wall a little more interesting.

You can buy Boise: City of Trees here.

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Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at [email protected].

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