Street art comes to an alley in Idaho Falls

Teya Vitu//August 1, 2018

Street art comes to an alley in Idaho Falls

Teya Vitu//August 1, 2018

Puggslane in a narrow alley in Idaho Falls is open to street artists to add their own murals. Photo by Teya Vitu.

Boise’s Freak Alley has a spinoff in Idaho Falls called Pugsslane.

Gibby Smede started doing graffiti art or street art a year or so ago in a narrow downtown alley as a high school senior project at Compass Academy, an Idaho Falls magnet high school. Now she invites artists in the community to add their own murals to Pugsslane – named for a pug dog pet and embedded with her initials – GSS.

“I was inspired by Freak Alley,” Smede said. “Generally, I’m trying to have a public space where people can showcase their artistic abilities. It is truly for the community artists to feel empowered.”

Smede, 19, was on school’s paint crew painting murals around campus when it struck her that maybe she should expand upon street art as her senior project.

“If I can paint at school, where else can I paint?” she pondered back then.

The narrow alley sits between the historic Harris and Rogers buildings. Smede’s father, Steve Smede, is editor of Idaho Falls Magazine and works in the Harris Building, easily securing mural permission for Gibby.

More than half of Pugsslane in downtown Idaho Falls has been decorated with street art. Photo by Teya Vitu.

“The Rogers Building, they just heard what I was doing and emailed me to say it was fine,” Smede said.

Idaho Downtown Development Corp., which advances downtown as center for commerce, culture and leisure activities, is fine with Puggsalley, too, said Catherine Smith, its executive director.

“It makes downtown cool,” Smith said. “We have youth coming downtown. It’s elevated art. It’s added unique flavor. It’s a surprise that it’s there.”

A sign at the alley entrance asks prospective artists to email Smede. She has met most of the artists showcased on the wall only by email. The sign reads: “All non-offensive requests will be accepted.

“It’s definitely more than half full now,” Smede said.

Gibby Smede is the creator of the Pugsslane street art alley in downtown Idaho Falls. Photo courtesy of Gibby Smede.

Unauthorized graffiti has appeared on the wall and Smede has removed it.

“Nobody seems to graffiti on the art work,” she said.

Street art has gained public acceptance across the country and world. Headlines include “Graffiti Is a Public Good, Even As It Challenges the Law” in the New York Times and “From the Streets: The Rise of Urban Art” on the Sotheby’s website. Denver street art is promoted as an attraction at www.denver.org. The BBC asks: “Street art: Crime, grime or sublime?”