This June, the South Side Neighborhood Task Force received an artistic grant from Big Sky Economic Development, allowing them to improve the Sixth Street Underpass area by removing the existing graffiti and replacing it with a mural.
Now, after what Elyssa Leininger, artist of the ‘Rise and Shine’ mural, said took over 100 days and 1,000 hours of work, the mural is complete.
Leininger said Tuesday afternoon that the first step in creating the mural was the planning stage.
“I took a lot of measurements of the underpass. Then using particle board, I cut the pieces to make a to-scale design that was about a foot tall and 15 feet wide,” said Leininger.
Leininger said that after creating the model, she then started adding the details like the sunrise, the main landmarks in Billings and all the wildlife. She said the amount of paint she would need to complete the project and the exact size of the animals depicted in the mural had to be calculated.
After the calculations were done and creating the mural had started, Leininger said she received a positive response from the community.
“My original goal was to make a difference in just one person's day, but it has exploded and been so much more than that. I think the person who has been impacted the most is me,” said Leininger.
She said that while she was painting people would wave, honk, donate their last dollar, and even offer drinks and tacos outside of their car windows.
“It has impacted me in such a profound way. It has really touched my heart and soul and it's something that I will always cherish for my entire life,” said Leininger.
To help Leininger complete the project, 45 volunteers came out to put on the base coats of paint in preparation for the mural.
Catherine Card, chair of South Side Neighborhood Task Force, said she wants the community to know how much they have helped in completing the mural.
“We had so much support from the community the whole way through. The task force, the Big Sky Economic Development, and the community at large is really- and of course, Elyssa- are really the team that put this together,” said Card.
Leininger said she hopes to have the opportunity to create more public art in the future, but for now she hopes the ‘Rise and Shine’ mural will continue to brighten people’s days.
For people in Billings who come to see the mural and want a challenge, Leininger says she has a scavenger hunt on her Facebook page so people can hunt for landscapes, symbols like our state bird, and various animals depicted in the mural.