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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Artist paints Mandela on billboard for legacy project

An ad with a larger-than-life shiny red Toyota covers the corner of a downtown brick building.

On Friday it was overshadowed by a smaller but more emphatic billboard – created in a way that organizers said is unprecedented in Spokane.

With brushes and spray paint – rather than pasting already printed ads – local artist Jesse Pierpoint created an 11- by 23-foot advertisement on a billboard for Global Credit Union.

Pierpoint, a professor of design at Whitworth University, was asked to paint his interpretation of “legacy” as Global celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. He has done live paintings of murals and other art, but he had never painted a billboard on top of a three-story scissor lift. He said he had been practicing in his garage in the weeks leading to the event.

As Pierpoint sweated through the midday sun, local DJs the Twin Towers played music below the scissor lift – sometimes with construction workers, building what will become the Grand Hotel Spokane, dancing across the street. The Bistro Box food truck sold lunches on the street as Pierpoint painted above.

The finished product is a striking, graffiti-style portrayal of Nelson Mandela, a vision that immediately came to mind when Pierpoint began planning the project – and one supported by Global Credit Union.

Though Global and Boom Creative, a local nontraditional ad agency, put on the event, Pierpoint said he did not feel artistically restricted.

“Global is really great in that they support a lot of local artists,” Pierpoint said. “It doesn’t feel like a corporate thing.”

Boom Creative launched the “Global Citizen Campaign” last year in an effort to further engage itself in the community and highlight emerging artists, including musicians, said Boom Creative account executive Ginger Ewing.

Ewing said they chose Pierpoint because of his experience creating artwork in a short time.

Those walking by the live painting were eager to see more visual art downtown, whether sponsored by a credit union or not.

“We need more of this,” said Wakan Burrows, who works with the Twin Towers DJs.

William Hulings said he has noticed a growing artistic community in recent years, but said Spokane needs more visible public art.

“I think it’s a strength in the community to have more visibility for artists,” said Mary Starkey, Global’s chief operating officer.

Pierpoint is also the creative director at Seven2, a digital design company, and has helped launch art events such as Terrain, an annual juried multimedia art and music show in downtown Spokane.

“It’s really fun to see the art community grow,” he said.