By Ben Olson
When the world gives you graffiti, make art.
After Hope resident Kathleen Huntley began noticing more frequent incidents of graffiti on the prominent wall beside the Hope Bridge, she decided to take an artful approach. The wall sits below the Pioneer Cemetery, where former Hope-area settlers and Chinese railroad workers from the late 1800s are buried.
“The wall was an occasional target for graffiti,” Huntley told the Reader. “But also an ugly thing being [on] the corridor to Hope and East Hope. I had thought and mentioned for years that it would be a great mural wall.”
It was the potential paperwork and bureaucracy that kept Huntley at bay, until she indulged herself and called the Idaho Department of Transportation and asked what the steps were to paint a community mural on the wall.
“Surprise, they were so nice, so positive — a delight to do business with,” Huntley said. “They sent me the paperwork.”
With the first hurdle cleared, Huntley then began thinking how she could bring the communities of Hope and East Hope together to make the mural an object of pride.
“The state required permission/endorsement from both communities, so off to the council meetings I went, again to be met with a great deal of positive reinforcement and enthusiasm.”
Huntley formed a committee that included herself, Terry Ginelli, Kathy Gorup, Larry Bledsoe, Gene Merica and Tom Newbill. She began casting a wide net for design ideas.
“We solicited designs from Trestle Creek to the Montana border,” she said.
After collecting numerous design concepts, the committee met at the Hope Memorial Community Center and rolled the ideas out onto the floor one by one. The only problem? No one could decide which design to paint on the wall.
“So we merged them,” she said. “We looked at them and made a conglomeration of the submissions. Everyone liked the big fish designed by the fifth-graders at Hope Elementary.”
After the committee agreed on a concept, Huntley sent it off to ITD, which, after one small request for a color change, approved the design.
With the paperwork out of the way, the committee then faced its next challenge: funding. Because of its location beside a busy highway, the mural committee would have to hire flaggers to direct traffic, eating into their already depleted funds.
“That was about the time of the annual pancake breakfast, when the local fire department was out
stopping traffic on Highway 200,” Huntley said.
She then realized the firefighters are all trained flaggers; and, what’s more, Sam Owen Fire District Chief Tim Scofield was “more than enthused” about volunteering to flag traffic while the artists began painting on the wall.
The next task was securing the paint — a tricky move with no funds. Again, the committee received a leg up from the community.
When the committee approached Mallory Paint Store, and Benjamin Moore Manager Virgil Bowman to ask about paint donations, he told them he’d see what he could do.
“I reached out to Benjamin Moore and they said, ‘Yes, of course, we’re happy to help,’” Bowman told the Reader. Also donated were applicators from Wooster Company and an anti-graffiti coating donated by Rustoleum.
“Historically, Benjamin Moore has always liked partnering with the community and doing things of that nature,” Bowman said. “It was a great opportunity to be able to help out and have several of our vendors help out as well.”
After a donation of approximately 35 gallons of paint and supplies, and almost two years of preparation, the mural committee was finally ready to gather volunteers and begin work in the summertime.
“We had over 20 volunteers at one point or another,” Huntley said. “The youngest was 5-and-a-half with her grandmother. The oldest was 83. We had folks from every walk of life. Cancer survivors, major-injury folks. Democrats, Republicans. All kinds of religions. We had three generations from one family, a guest from the Philippines and a
Native American gentleman. There were musicians and city planners and two consistent members from the Hope City Council. Much to my delight, some of the Hope Elementary kids who painted the original big fish were able to come and actually paint the big one on the wall. …
“They were now in seventh grade, but several of them who worked on the concept came back to paint it,” she added.
The group completed the mural in October, after many hours of work and the combined efforts of the community.
“I could not have done it without the enthusiasm and help I found everywhere I turned,” Huntley said. “This truly was a community project.”
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