Just three days since the installation of the asphalt art project surrounding North Park began, you can already see a big difference.
“I think it shows just how much we can do together as a community, instead of by ourselves. This project is bigger than one person,” said artist Jodi Lightner, whose art is being installed on North 22nd Street between 7th Avenue North and 6th Avenue North.
Artist Jodi Lightner, center, poses with volunteers on North 22nd Street, where her work is being
installed for the asphalt art project. "I’ve had a good response with volunteers coming out to help
and it takes a community to do a project of this size. So I’m really thankful for everyone who
volunteered to help," Lightner said.
With bright hues of blue and orange, Lightner’s art portrays her idea of Billings as a trailhead.
“We’ve got a sense of funneling down toward the entrance of the park. We got the actual representation of the trails with the stripes, and we’ll have a contrast between the urban city and nature between the blue and the orange,” Lightner said.
Lightner and her group of volunteers are going to take a break over the next several days as they wait for another paint color to arrive. They plan to pick things back up next week to complete the piece.
She’s impressed by their speed and progress.
“I think it just shows what the purpose of public art is, it’s to build community and it’s a sense of people coming together,” Lightner said.
As excited as she is to see her piece come to life, she’s interested in seeing how fast it washes away.
“I think ephemeral art, ephemeral art meaning it dissolves over time or it disappears, the speed at which it disappears is the exciting part. I made this, now let’s see how long it lasts.”
The project requires using a special paint called concrete stain since regular paint doesn’t stay well in high-traffic areas. Lightner says installing the asphalt art is like an experiment
“This road is getting redone in three years, so if it lasts three years, that’s going to be amazing. I also designed it, so as it wore away, you would end up with colors still showing through,” she said.
It’s also an experiment on inspiration.
“I hope that, from this project, people will feel like they can come together in this park and enjoy North Park and enjoy this community in different ways and that it will encourage others to do more public art projects around the city,” Lightner said.
Down the road at the intersection of North 22nd Street and 8th Avenue North, artist Elyssa Leininger was sketching the outline of Montana wildlife that’s featured in her art installment.
Her mother Chris Leininger has been monitoring the project and said it’s already making a difference.
One neighbor told her cars have slowed down instead of whizzing by like they usually do.
Chris said they’ve also received many compliments from people passing by.
Growing up on the Billings Southside, she said her daughter’s childhood dream of being an artist has come full circle.
They’ve been told Elyssa’s existing artwork on underpasses around Billings southside has given people a sense of comfort. She hopes the asphalt art project can do the same for the North Park neighborhood.
After the intersection of 22nd and 8th is complete, Elyssa has four more pieces to install at the intersection of North 19th Street and 8th Avenue North.
Artist Elley Swan will begin installing her work on North 19th Street next week. Located right outside the doors of Explorers Academy Head Start Program, her piece features rainbow trout swimming down a stream of water.
The asphalt art project is possible through a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies. Billings Mayor Bill Cole worked with the Billings Industrial Revitalization District to apply for the asphalt art initiative grant.
If you would like to volunteer, contact the BIRD at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up.
Visit artist Jodi Lightner’s Instagram page to see some art in progress!