BILLINGS — It's amazing what you can do with a brush, a can of paint and some creativity: Artists in Billings are transforming ordinary asphalt into extraordinary art.
Three artists are working on different, yet cohesive, art projects on the streets surrounding North Park. Billings Industrial Revitalization District, or BIRD, and the city of Billings applied for a public art grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies in April 2020. In September 2021, they received a $25,000 grant to start the project.
Jodi Lightner is working on a piece that covers an entire block of the street.
“The design starts at Sixth Avenue with larger shapes, and they get smaller and smaller as they near the entrance to the park at Seventh Avenue. And this is my interpretation of Billings as a trailhead,” Lightner said on Wednesday.
Just down the road from Lightner, Elyssa Leininger is creating an art piece on the corners.
"They will feature all like the native species that were once here, like bison, elk, dear, eagle, bears and some distant mountains and then the warm sunrises that inspire feelings of happiness, confidence, tolerance. All the feel-good colors," Leininger said.
The third art project will start next week across North Park from Lightner's piece and will also cover a block of the road.
The projects are not just a way to brighten up the community. They also have a practical purpose.
“The designs are to slow traffic, make it more pedestrian friendly, and create environments that people can use more often… but then these corner intersections also create friction. They slow traffic down by making the road feel smaller, even though it’s technically not,” said Zack Terakeis, the director of BIRD.
All of the paintings are anticipated to be complete by Aug. 5 and featured in the Billings ArtWalk.
It's a short turnaround for such immense projects, but the artists have high hopes the paintings will last for years.
“This street is being renovated in three years. So, the painting hopefully, or aspects of it will last for three years. But you know, I am just pleased for it to last as long as it does, and we’ll see what happens,” Lightner said.