When Quinn Peterson became the director of Downtown Provo Inc. two and a half years ago, the primary objective of the organization was to make the historic district a more welcoming atmosphere for people to stroll around in. The group also wanted to bring more culture to the area.
One of the ways was to throw a lot of energy into the Art Stroll, an event that takes place the first Friday of every month. Flags mounted on buildings in downtown Provo indicate where patrons can see art on display, and some businesses will have fun activities to encourage people to visit. In the wintertime, Peterson said, if people visit enough shops they can even get free hot chocolate.
“The art stroll has actually existed for 10 or 15 years,” Peterson said. “Two years ago ... we decided to make that a priority.”
One of the new additions Peterson and the Downtown Provo Inc. team brought to the art stroll is monthly murals. A little over a year ago, Downtown Provo Inc. prepared a proposal to receive funding from the Provo Recreation, Arts and Parks, or RAP, tax. Their proposal did pretty well and they received funding — but only enough for two and a half murals.
“That just kind of started the program,” Peterson said. “Ever since then, we’ve just paid for (the murals) out of the Downtown Provo Inc. funding that we have from the business community.”
Peterson said the organization mostly serves as the middleman, connecting local artists to property owners with “big, vacant wall space.” The first mural went up in August, and since then, the program has grown. As murals pop up, Peterson said, more artists and business owners contact Downtown Provo Inc. to be part of the monthly mural program.
“There are so many business owners that want things like this, and there are so many artists out there that want to do things like this, they just need to know how to fit together,” Peterson said. “So we just tried to create a program to allow that to happen.”
Now, the program is full up until August, Peterson said. And, they occasionally get calls from other people who want murals on their buildings, allowing the organization to connect more local artists with opportunities.
The April mural was painted by Haily South, originally from Orem and now living in Springville. She saw a call in January for artist submissions to be part of the monthly mural program.
“I had just made a goal for 2019 to do a mural in Utah County,” South said. “I jumped on submitting when I saw the opportunity.”
Peterson said a committee of local business owners and artists sifts through submissions and make the choices. The owners of Mozz, a new pizzeria opening today on University Avenue, turned down several submissions before they saw South’s, she said, because they were looking for something that reminded them of murals they loved in “vibrant big cities.”
“I had no idea how competitive it was, and I felt so very lucky and honored to have been chosen by them,” South said. “Once I saw how seriously they took their craft at Mozz, I felt driven to not let them down. I wanted to give the mural my all to do to them justice.”
Doing the space justice wasn’t without its challenges. South had never painted a mural before. Most of her paintings are around 8-by-10 inches — the mural was 8.5-by-10.5 feet.
“Working on such a large scale was both liberating and daunting,” South said. “In some areas, I got to whack my brush around and have fun with it. In other areas, I had a tiny brush, and a steady hand, fighting against the bumpy texture of the old brick while trying to accomplish straight edges and intricate details.”
Since finishing her mural and unveiling it at the April Art Stroll, South said the community reception has been overwhelmingly positive, and she herself was pleasantly surprised.
“A finished painting, or a creative idea of any kind, never lives up to the idea you have in your head when you began,” she said. “That being said, I think this is the first time I’ve ever been wowed by something I’ve made.”
South’s mural, and every mural that’s been painted as part of the program, can be easily found by using Downtown Provo’s wall mural map at https://www.downtownprovo.com/maps/. And there will be more to see every month — Peterson doesn’t think they’ll be running out of wall space anytime soon.
“The more property owners that see our program, the more of them start contacting me, and so it is kind of opening our eyes to how many spaces are potentially available for murals,” Peterson said. “We plan to continue doing this indefinitely to create as many murals as we can, one per month.”
Follow Downtown Provo on Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date with upcoming events. And see more of South’s art at https://www.hailysouth.com/.