Anyone who visited the Cottonwood Junction store this past First Friday Art Walk would have heard the band, Jazz on a Stick, and seen the manager, Michael Haas, and local artist Heidi Yerbich handing out a yellow flyer announcing an upcoming Pocatello art project involving a mural for the store’s back alley wall. This will be the “first annual Urban Art Exhibit to premiere Aug. 19 and run officially through the Old Town Art Walk on Sept. 6,” the flyer says. The murals will stay up for a year, and donations from the project will benefit Relight the Night, a local committee devoted to relighting all of Old Town Pocatello’s historic neon signs. Cottonwood Junction is in the same building that once housed the Idaho Youth Ranch.

The flyer continues: “At this time, we are calling artists to paint individual or group murals for the Alley Exhibit. Our theme is Pocatello — a Reason to Smile. We have a limited amount of spaces and painting will commence on Aug. 10-18.”

Yerbich stated that a mock-up must be turned in by July 7.

Haas got the idea one afternoon watching some tourists taking a photo in front of a mural down the street. He decided to make his alley wall available for a mural. The theme lends itself to many possibilities: perhaps a painting of Revive@5 showing musicians performing for the Wednesday evening crowds, or even a street scene showing a First Friday Art Walk with pedestrians visiting shops, viewing art and listening to music.

Artistic works can add to a city’s reputation. I grew up in San Francisco and remember the giant murals of Mexican painter Diego Rivera, including one at City College. Once married to Frida Kahlo, Rivera’s Marxist politics often caused controversy, but not in San Francisco.

Murals can bring beauty and even inspiration to an area. In Boise, a similar project resulted in a popular tourist area in downtown known as Freak Alley. Here, artists have painted colorful murals on the brick buildings lining the alley between North Eighth and Ninth streets.

Yerbich participated in the project and has a mural still visible in the alley. Freak Alley has become a notable place of public art and is believed to be the largest outdoor gallery in the Northwest. It has been a Boise institution since 2002.

Anyone driving down Arthur Avenue will see the mural of wild horses that the community embraced, stopping its planned removal. Certainly, another mural in Pocatello could “enhance” the area as Yerbich pointed out. The Urban Art Exhibit project will be repeated very year, so it’s essential local artists get those mock-ups in for consideration.

For more information and to register, visit Cottonwood Junction, 141 N. Main St. in Pocatello, or call 208-0929. The email is, if that is preferable.

Michael Corrigan of Pocatello is a San Francisco native and a retired Idaho State University English and speech communication instructor. He studied screenwriting at the American Film Institute and has authored seven books, many about the Irish American experience.