6.29.23 | read time: 3 min
Art and Inclusivity: The Spokane Queer Art Walk Mural
How it Started
My relationship with Spokane Arts has changed the course of my artistic career for good. It began with an internship as a photography student at Spokane Falls Community College. Eventually, Spokane Arts evolved from a city organization to a nonprofit, and I dropped out of college and became a self-taught fine artist. Since then, I’ve worked with Spokane Arts on an array of public art projects, including painting a train underpass mural, teaching a mural painting class, and designing and installing a 3,750 square foot mural on an outdoor basketball court.
I volunteered on the team that started the Spokane Queer Art Walk a few years ago – a special June 2SLGBTQ+ edition of our Spokane First Friday Art Walk. I created the original graphic and map for the Art Walk, but they wanted a new, permanent logo. Through 116 & West, I created a hand-lettered logo and printed map just in time for this year’s Art Walk. Due to my experience in leadership and painting murals, Spokane Arts asked me to lead the design and installation of a Pride flag asphalt art mural as part of the Spokane Queer Art Walk.
The Mural Painting Process
To paint the mural, we needed to shut down two of downtown Spokane’s prominent streets, which was not a small feat – it took months of planning. We closed the street at 7:00 pm on a Saturday, and Downtown Spokane Partnership showed up and power-washed the road for us, allowing the team to apply primer to the entire intersection. For this project, I got to select a team of local LGBTQ+ artists to help with painting. The next morning we spent 6 hours laying out and painting the flag. The road dried overnight and opened back up to traffic Monday morning.
Though this mural is temporary and will eventually disappear, it does not erase its significance as the first project of Spokane Arts’ asphalt art pilot program. They look forward to future proposals and working with neighborhoods to paint murals across the city in the coming years.
How Art Changes the Conversation
My favorite aspect of painting a mural is how public it is. Murals create a sense of place; in this case, it is celebrating people of all gender identities and backgrounds who have faced historic and ongoing discrimination. The pride flag conveys to residents and visitors that Spokane is a friendly, welcoming city aspiring to become more inclusive.
As a queer artist, leading this important project for my community was truly an honor. For every negative comment, including a preacher with a bullhorn, there were 20 positive ones. People cheered us on; even a band playing in the park wandered over to support us. The Spokane Pride Organization hooked them up with mics and a sound system. An impromptu concert and dance party unfolded, complete with splashing in the Riverfront Park Rotary Fountain. What may have been a long, hot, tough day of painting ended up turning into a full-on celebration.
A week later, the Spokane Pride Parade ended by marching directly through our pride flag to kick off the day-long celebration in Riverfront Park. This project was a community effort and a huge win for Spokane.
To peep the behind-the-scenes version of this project, check out my Instagram reel: @cursewordsandbirds
The Pride flag mural was a project of Spokane Arts in partnership with Spokane City Councilmember Zach Zappone and an advisory group of LGBTQ+ advocates. The project and design were reviewed and approved by the Spokane Arts Commission and Riverside Neighborhood Council, as well as an advisory group including members from organizations like Spokane Pride, Spectrum, Spokane AIDS Network, Odyssey Youth Center, INBA, and the Washington State LGBTQ Commission.