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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Local impressions: Artist Chris Bovey explains connection between city, art in Northwest Passages event

Local artist Chris Bovey, on left, has a conversation with Spokesman-Review columnist Shawn Vestal about his new book “Vintage Spokane - The Art of Chris Bovey,” during the Northwest Passages Book Club Tuesday  at The Montvale Event Center. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Everyone has their own take on Spokane, but the wayChris Bovey captures the Lilac City has caught on.

The local artist’s prints hang in homes, are worn on T-shirts, are splashed across the walls of local businesses and are now collected in a new coffee-table book called “Vintage Spokane: The Art of Chris Bovey.”

At Northwest Passages Book Club Tuesday night, Bovey answered questions about his evolution as an artist during a multimedia slideshow that event organizers called “Bovey’s Vintage Spokane Bus Tour.”

The virtual bus tour of Spokane took attendees inside Bovey’s artwork, from Frank’s Diner to the East Sprague Drive-in Theater to the Garland Theater – all places where Bovey has a special connection.

The tour also included stops at Ming Wah Restaurant, where Bovey and his wife had their first date over 15 years ago, and the Playfair Race Course, where he went with his grandfather to watch horse racing.

“Playfair was not a place for kids, but I have a vivid memory of going there,” Bovey said as he pointed to his mom in the front row and laughed. “It was the ’80s – everything went.”

His art is simple, bold and straightforward – qualities he hopes keep his art accessible.

“When you see a little kid come up to you at a show and they have 10 bucks in their hand, you’re like, ‘I’m definitely going to sell you the print for 10 bucks,’ and it’s their first piece of art,” Bovey said. “It’s a magical moment.”

After almost a decade as the art director at the Inlander, Bovey started a side hustle doing prints of iconic Spokane buildings.

“This was all just a fluke,” Bovey said. “It kind of surprises me that I’m there in my washroom printing and it actually has that kind of impact in Spokane.”

About five years ago, Bovey went to Atticus Coffee and Gifts and asked Andy Dinnison, who owns the business with his wife Kris, if he would buy some of the prints.

He said yes, emphatically.

That yes started the partnership between Bovey and the Dinnisons, who also own the novelty shop Boo Radley’s.

“He knows what I’m thinking, and I know a little bit more what he’s thinking,” Andy Dinnison said.

The partnership has grown from a few prints to hundreds, with Bovey’s art now available on T-shirts and coffee mugs and online.

“It’s been life changing,” Bovey said. “I wouldn’t be here without them.”

After years of finding the rhythm, it was time to expand the partnership in a coffee-table book, available exclusively at Atticus and on Bovey’s website.

As a well-known author herself, Kris Dinnison furthered the partnership by writing the text for “Vintage Spokane,” which covers the history of many of the buildings and businesses featured in Bovey’s art.

There was so much to learn about Spokane, Kris Dinnison said.

“We’ve been collaborating with Chris for a few years now,” she said. “We believe in him.”

Others have started believing in Bovey, too.

He recently finished a large mural in Flatstick Pub, which is set to open downtown soon, and has painted other murals around town. Bovey also does commissioned pieces for businesses like The Scoop ice-cream shop.

Along with commissioned work, Bovey is always picking new Spokane landmarks to print, like the long-controversial Spokane Regional Health District buildingturrets.

“People either hate it or they really love it,” Bovey said. “Originally, there were going to be four of these buildings, identical all the way down Broadway. I know it’s ugly, I know people are like, ‘Ugh, I just hate it.’ … But it’s Spokane.”

When it comes to the future, Bovey doesn’t have any solid plans other than to keep creating.

“I just keep going until Andy tells me to stop over there,” Bovey joked, pointing at his friend.

Jesse Tinsley - The Spokesman-Review