Friday, September 4, 2009

Hailey ponders public murals

Arts Commission has plan for ‘cultural tourism’

Express Staff Writer

Local artist Tom Teitge painted this mural on the south wall of a building on Croy Street in Hailey in the 1980s. The painting lasted until Bruce Willis redesigned the building about 15 years ago. The Hailey Arts Commission is currently drawing up guidelines for more public murals in the city. Photo by

The Hailey Arts Commission would like to bring a little artistic vision to some of the blank walls around town, beginning with a mural in the Hailey City Council chambers.

"Murals tell a story and teach at the same time," said Hailey Arts Commissioner Mark Johnstone, who presented the council with a slideshow of murals from around the Northwest last Monday.

Johnstone said the city would benefit from "cultural tourism" if the city featured large paintings from its colorful past.

"Along with the other art events in the valley, murals will draw people from out of town and generate business for hotels, restaurants and other businesses," he said.

The arts commission was granted permission last year to pursue a mural project within the council chambers, at an expected cost of $22,000. The city has dedicated $10,000 to the project and Valley Entertainment has supplied $1,500. Johnstone said the arts commission has applied to private foundations for the rest.

The design for the mural has yet to be decided. Once the funding has been secured, the Arts Commission will call for artist submissions.

"We plan to use an artist from the Wood River Valley," Johnstone said. " It will depend to some extent on how much experience the person has painting murals."

As for the many blank walls in town that could also be used as canvases by local artists, the City Council will have to arrive at a consensus for approving guidelines before the commission starts developing projects.

Current draft guidelines exclude advertising from public murals in the city, a point that Councilman Fritz Haemmele found troublesome on Monday.

"If I was a business paying for a mural, I'd want some opportunity to advertise with it," he said.

The council will take up that and other details of the ordinance next month. Meanwhile, artist Tom Teitge is hoping to move forward with a mural project of his own on River Street.

Over the past 30 years, Teitge has painted several murals in Ketchum and Hailey and a dozen more in cities in the Northwest.

"Murals have the ability to transform a neighborhood," said Teitge, whose current project will be reviewed by the Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission on Sept. 21.

The theme of Teitge's mural design is "Swords into Plowshares."

"This one has positive ideas and positive vibes can circulate out from the center. I just hope I have the chance to put it up on a building."

Tony Evans:

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