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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Hoopfest isn’t happening, but city courts get fresh look from area artists

UPDATED: Fri., July 17, 2020

Artist Tiffany Patterson works to paint a Hooptown USA mural on the Peaceful Valley Park basketball court on Tuesday.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
Artist Tiffany Patterson works to paint a Hooptown USA mural on the Peaceful Valley Park basketball court on Tuesday. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

Hoopfest has been canceled, but the spirit of the tournament will carry on at a few neighborhood courts around the city.

Basketball courts in Peaceful Valley Park, Chief Garry Park and Thornton Murphy Park will receive a facelift and a fresh coat of paint from three local artists, selected out of dozens of applicants by Hooptown USA, the Spokane nonprofit that organizes Hoopfest. The murals are part of a larger project to revitalize basketball courts throughout the Spokane region, with support from MultiCare Health Systems.

In partnership with Spokane Arts, which put out the call for artists a few months back and is providing stipends to the artists selected, the project aims to “establish a mosaic of art and basketball throughout the region to inspire and encourage inclusivity, ultimately building healthier communities,” according to a Spokane Arts release.

Tiffany Patterson, a Spokane resident whose art is recognizable in murals and installations throughout the city, had her design selected for the Peaceful Valley court. It’s something of a full-circle moment for her; Peaceful Valley was the site of Patterson’s first mural project a decade ago. But the court design, spanning 3,750 square feet, is by far her largest undertaking – so big, in fact, she had to hire an assistant, Bella Campos.

Patterson said she wanted to create a design that mirrored the energy of basketball, both energetic and optimistic. Her sketches of the finished product feature flaming basketballs bouncing chaotically around a soothing blue backdrop.

Community members have already starting finding something to identify with in the design, Patterson said. A neighborhood representative, Carol Bryan, told Patterson she thought the design reflected the river that flows through Peaceful Valley, complete with stepping stones, ripples and a reflection of the sky above.

That’s just one way art installations such as the court mural create a “sense of place” for those who use the space, Patterson said. She wants Peaceful Valley residents to feel ownership and pride in the newly revitalized basketball court, incorporating the mural into their unique neighborhood vibe.

Beyond the sport, Patterson said she wanted to encourage play and creativity for any residents who might happen upon the mural. She included repeated shapes, lines and textures in her design, remembering how she used to run down lines on a basketball court as a kid.

“I wanted to initiate and encourage play,” Patterson said.

“I didn’t want to tell kids how to play, but to give them the opportunity to create and come up with play for themselves.”

Patterson and Campos started work on the mural last weekend, after several weeks of delays when the company selected to resurface the court shut down during quarantine. As they worked, Patterson said people often stopped by, noticeably saddened the court wasn’t open for play. But plenty of local residents strolled by and thanked the artists for making a bright space in their neighborhood, too.

They’ve laid out some of the basic shapes and outlines for the design. But they quickly ran out of the specialized paint needed for the project, and had to wait a day or two for orders to come in. Now that they’re stocked again, Patterson said she and Campos typically work in the evening to avoid the afternoon heat – the first couple of days, paint would sizzle when they applied it to the asphalt.

“Every time we’ve worked, it’s been a series of problem-solving exercises,” Patterson said. “A project this size has a huge learning curve.”

Although Hoopfest isn’t expected to be back in person until next year, Patterson said she hopes her project has a long legacy of its own.

Besides the mural in Peaceful Valley, Coeur d’Alene native Joshua Martel will be installing a court mural at Chief Garry Park later this summer. In 2021, muralist Nick Goettling will install another design in Thornton Murphy Park in Lincoln Heights. Spokane Arts is also in the process of selecting an artist to paint a court complex expected to open on the north bank of Riverfront Park in the spring.

“I would love to see this being more inspiration for more murals throughout the city,” Patterson said. “Spokane has such a great tradition of public art, and I would love to see that become just a regular thing – seeing unique, beautiful art everywhere.”

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