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Arts & Culture

New Mural Brightens Billings' South Side

mural laid out.jpg
Southside Task Force via Facebook
Artist Elyssa Leininger kneels and members of the Southside Task Force stand next to the planned design for the Southside underpass mural.

Community members in Billings are painting a mural in the historically low income side of the city in order to bring people together at a time when many of us feel farther apart than ever.

A local artist and volunteers have started painting a mural on an underpass in the Southside of Billings as part of efforts to make the historically low income area the "Bright Side of the Tracks.” Volunteers say the painting has already brought the community closer together during a time when social distancing can make us feel isolated.

People honked and stopped to complement the bright oranges and pinks of the mural, the newest project by the Southside Task Force.

"See that, that, those kinds of things really make this worthwhile," Card said.

That’s Catherine Card, President of the Southside Task Force

"All the energy and stuff that it takes to paint this. People honk and they stop by and we got one day we got three packages of fresh big jerky, freshly made," Card said.

The mural features the different landscapes and wildlife of Billings with a vivid sunrise glowing over the concrete horizon. It’s designed by artist Elyssa Leininger who has lived in the Southside her entire life.

"So I implemented a lot of color psychology into this piece so that the warm yellows and oranges and pinks of the sunrise will inspire feelings of confidence, tolerance and happiness," Leininger said.

Southside Task Force Facebook Page
Artist Elyssa Leininger and volunteers paint the background for the mural on the 6th St. W underpass in Billings.

According to Card the idea started when task force members, feeling cooped up by COVID-19 precautions, decided to cover graffiti in the underpass. Soon the plan evolved into a mural, with half of the $5,000 needed to complete the project coming from a Big Sky Economic Development grant and the rest from donations. The money will cover material costs as well as a small artist stipend.

Card says the Task Force chose the underpass on 6th St. West because it sees the most amount of pedestrians and cars, with about 17,000 vehicles driving through a day.

"It’s a good time to try some of these things that we might not have thought of when the world was back how we were living it before COVID. But COVID is going to be around for a while so it’s good to think of things that we can do safely as a community," Card said.

The mural should be finished by the end of August. As Leininger and the volunteers prepared to start the second coat of bright orange another admirer walked over to chat.

People who want to volunteer or donate to the Southside mural project should contact Catherine Card at 406-679-1501 or email southsidetaskforce@gmail.com

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