What do Guns N’ Roses, San Francisco Sourdough Company and StanCraft Boat Company have in common?
They all use graphics created by Coeur d’Alene’s ArtCoLab.
Cofounder Scott Lakey had the idea for a collaborative art and design company in 2010, after working on the set of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. While on the show, Lakey worked with a team of designers to install murals and art pieces at Oregon School for the Deaf.
Skilled artists focusing their talents all on one task - now that was a good idea for a business. He called his friend Jeremy Deming, a sign printer he worked for in college, and the pair created the design company that just celebrated its five-year anniversary.
“When I was younger, all I wanted to do was draw cartoons,” Lakey said. “Now with this business, I have all these connections in amazing places and can do amazing things.”
The company, on Lakeside Avenue, specializes in all things media - from website design to beer can labels to animation. It comprises artists from all over the country who are subcontracted out by Lakey and Deming. Once the pair decides which artists are best suited for a certain project, they collaborate to create custom designs.
“We are different than an ad agency because everyone is their own boss here,” Lakey said. “Our artists get paid well, and their name actually goes on their art.”
As a business made up of independent artists and companies from around the country, all finished products require teamwork.
Lakey believes every artist’s ideas should be considered equally. At the ArtCoLab, every artist is their own business. In fact, a majority of Lakey’s work is helping other artists start their own independent art and design companies.
“Art and design is not the right industry to be an employee,” Lakey said. “Any designer who is working for someone has to be working on the side. So you might as well be your own business, and we guide a lot of artists to success.”
Influenced by classical art and graffiti, Lakey and Deming were afraid Coeur d’Alene would not welcome their style. But their graphics and artwork sold immediately. Participating in the art walk and other local events, the pair realized how supportive the Coeur d’Alene art community could be.
“Art is an emotional experience,” Lakey said. “Even if it takes alcohol to bring someone to a Coeur d’Alene gallery, it’s still the start of a connection. The art walks and galleries are all about communing around a positive environment, finding out your taste and who you are as a person.”
Over the years, the company has designed logos for local businesses like CrossFit CDA, Paddy’s Sports Bar, Jamms Frozen Yogurt, and more. But ArtCoLab is not just confined to Coeur d’Alene.
The company has also designed art and graphics for international musicians like Stone Temple Pilots, Godsmack, Slayer, and LL Cool J.
Although, ArtCoLab may be known best for its murals.
Lakey and Deming have covered local schools, businesses and parking garages with intricate spray painted masterpieces. Their latest mural locations include Ramsey fire station and the Lake City High School gym.
“We were nervous about Lake City,” Lakey said. “They told us ‘OK, be prepared, the kids are gonna have a lot of changes.’ But after we showed our ideas, all the kids just started clapping. Who else is doing glow-in-the-dark murals at schools?”
Since many businesses cannot afford to paint their buildings, Lakey and Deming have been working on a fundraising program called the Urban Mural Project to encourage local art. The project would provide businesses with the paint and the artists to transform their curb appeal and add culture to their city.
“I look at the blank buildings all over this town and think, ‘Man, there needs to be a mural there,’” Lakey said. “It’s just a wall you wouldn’t normally look at, and now you’re looking at it. Good or bad, it still makes you think and feel something.”
Lakey and Deming have plans to open up a bigger ArtCoLab space, which will include a retail store stocked with their exclusive German-made spray paints and an even bigger workspace for designers to work together.
For these artists, everything is a canvas. Another designer is an opportunity for collaboration instead of competition.