Internationally known muralist adding art to downtown Great Falls
Several walls in downtown Great Falls are getting a facelift this week.
Cameron Moberg, winner of the Street Art Throwdown and a well-known artist among the street art community, is in Great Falls through a partnership with NeighborWorks Great Falls.
His first mural, of a meadowlark, is now complete on the side of Hi-Line Climbing Center at 608 1st Ave. S.
Next, Moberg will be painting a mural on the side of Dragonfly Dry Goods facing 5th Street South.
Moberg visited Great Falls earlier this year since he has friends in town and met with staff from NWGF and the Business Improvement District about developing a street art program here.
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He’s in town for two weeks and will work with local artists and students.
Moberg is known for trying to paint murals that he thinks will speak to the community. He said people have walked by the Hi-Line and recognized the meadowlark immediately.
His passion is getting artists started and inspiring others to create, he said while finishing his first mural on Wednesday.
The project is being funded with a grant through NeighborWorks America. The grant covers a number of Downtown Master Plan revitalization projects, according to Carol Bronson, director of community initiatives at NWGF.
Moberg has gained recognition with his street art projects around the county, including art on an old grain silo in Indiana. He’s been to Indiana three years running and most recently organized a mural festival in a neighborhood in a suburb that had been largely forgotten and some were afraid to visit, he said. As part of the festival, he organized bike tours through the neighborhood and the effort helped the residents feel more connected to the larger city, he said.
Moberg said a friend put it best when she said walls are built to separate us, but putting a mural on it can bring people together.
For young people, art creates ownership in a community and gives them more pride in their towns.
Some muralists now were kids who happened to walk by Moberg when he was painting. One tried to steal his paint and instead, Moberg invited the young man to paint with him.
“It’s pretty powerful,” Moberg said. “It can give kids focus and direction.”
It did that for Moberg, who did not go to art school, but was always doodling in the margins of his schoolwork.
Wherever he goes, Moberg said he tries to work with students and help them develop an interest in art.
In Great Falls, several downtown art programs have existed over the years, but it’s been difficult getting bids for public art since artists don’t know how to develop proposals or price their art, Business Improvement District Coordinator Joan Redeen said earlier this year.
Moberg said he’s planning to meet with local artists over dinner to offer tips, advice and ideas on how to develop those proposals.
The first step is often getting some art on walls around town. Once people see it, there’s more desire for it.
“It starts small and generally will pick up,” Moberg said. “They need to see the vision.”
Moberg said it often improves local economies since it can bring people out walking to see street art and while they’re out they stop into local restaurants and shops. Street art can also lead to tours of what essentially becomes an outdoor art gallery and can drive tourism, like in Wynwood, a Miami neighborhood that is known for its street art.
It can also bring national or international attention to a town when well-known street artists and muralists come to town, he said. Moberg is hoping his friend from New York will be able to join him here this week to work on the Dragonfly mural and she has a large social media following.
“There’s so many things public art can do for a town,” Moberg said.
Brian Thompson, owner of Hi-Line Climbing Center, said that he’d been part of discussion on improving the downtown for awhile through the Downtown Safety Alliance.
When they started talking about murals, he wasn’t sure it would happen, but when Carol Bronson of NeighborWorks Great Falls asked if the Hi-Line would allow a mural on their building, he jumped on board.
They went with the bird mural since Moberg’s specialties include birds and the freedom of spirit it symbolized jived with their goals and culture at Hi-Line, Thompson said.
He said people had been stopping in to the climbing gym to ask about the mural and take photos.
The mural “takes something that was kind of invisible and makes it a focal point,” Thompson said. “This is hopefully just the start of improvements on the culture of downtown.”