The smell of acrylic paint drifts, on Tuesday and Thursday nights, from the end of Coeur d’Alene’s Walnut Avenue. Here, a group of young artists are putting their paint brushes together to add color and character to a local nonprofit.
In partnership with Emerge, a local community arts collaborative, four high schoolers have designed and started painting a mural in Lake City Bicycle Collective.
With help from Mayor Steve Widmyer, the bicycle collective, which provides bikes for underprivileged children, has a new center of operations.
Wanting the space to be a creative reflection of the community, Lake City Bike Collective Director Tom Morgan and Emerge Director Jeni Riplinger-Hegsted have partnered to create a welcoming environment for families.
Although the collective now shares its home with the Coeur d’Alene Parks Department, Morgan wants to differentiate the bike shop from the rest of the building.
“I want the drab environment to be transformed -- I want to give people a ‘wow’ feeling when they come in,” Morgan said. “The initial ‘wow’ will be the mural, and it will continue when people actually step in and see the bikes.”
As part of Emerge’s youth art programs, the high schoolers, Siara Prpich, Katie Blomgren, Sequoia Wheelan and Marina Lundy, have received volunteer hours and “real life” art experience.
With assistance from project leader and Emerge artist, Shannon Erwin, the girls have brainstormed and designed their first mural. It will feature three bicycles with depictions of different Coeur d’Alene seasons inside each tire.
The girls, all aged 16 and 17, chose each season based on what they love about their hometown of Coeur d’Alene.
“All the seasons we chose represent our personalities,” Blomgren, assigned fall, said. “No matter what time someone comes into the bike shop, our mural will be relevant to the season outside.”
Emerge was not the only local business to help the Lake City Bicycle Collective’s latest project. Capone’s Pub and Grill also donated paint supplies.
“We are leaving our mark on Coeur d’Alene,” Lundy, assigned summer, said. “This town has given a lot to us, so we are excited to give back.”
Although they vary on passion for bikes, the Coeur d’Alene High School and Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy students are excited to be part of a student-led project benefiting the community.
“I had a hot pink beach cruiser bike growing up, and now I’m excited for other kids to have that opportunity,” Prpich, assigned spring, said. “I feel like I’m a part of something bigger.”
Their artistic experience differs, but the students were individually given the the training needed to feel successful. Wheelan, assigned winter, said the only hard part about the mural project has been painting over cinder blocks.
Most of the girls are not involved in the art programs at their schools because they “don’t like being told what to do.” Prpich said she enjoys the four-week Emerge program because it allows students to direct a project themselves and have hands-on learning experiences.
For all but one of the students, this is the first time they have “been brave enough” to get involved with community art projects.
“The future begins with these students,” Morgan said. “I wanted this project to embolden them as artists and inspire others their age. This collective is about helping young people, so who better to relate to them than these talented young women.”
Although the mural is expected to be finished by the end of the month, the collective will be open in the meantime.
The new location will house a bicycle warehouse, a dirt racing track and three workstations for young people to learn how to repair their own bicycles. Morgan said the collective welcomes people of all ages.
“Bicycles are an empowering tool that give people skills and confidence,” Morgan said. “Twenty years from now, I want parents to come in here, look at the mural, and tell their own children, ‘Hey, I got my first bike here, and now it’s your turn.’”
Morgan said he has felt overwhelmed with the community’s support, from Mayor Widmyer to local businesses. His goal is to make sure every child in Coeur d’Alene has a bike.
“It’s true,” Morgan said. “If you want to change the world, start at home in your own community.”
As the girls finish up the mural over the next few weeks, Morgan hopes the smell of acrylic paint is soon replaced with the smell of bicycle grease.
Emerge, 208 N. Fourth St., Coeur d’Alene
Lake City Bicycle Collective, 709 E. Walnut St., Coeur d’Alene