POCATELLO — The walkway tunnels of the Center Street Underpass in Pocatello recently became a lot more colorful.
Spearheaded by Sixes Studio in collaboration with the city of Pocatello, the project aims to give young people a stake in the downtown area and help its development.
“We’re calling it the ‘skate park idea’,” Sixes co-owner Josh Pohlman told EastIdahoNews.com. “I grew up in Utah skateboarding and the thing the community did for the skateboarders, if they didn’t want kids skateboarding downtown and tearing up the granite or sliding down handrails and being what they would perceive as a nuisance, they offered them a skate park. It gave them an outlet to go be physically active while not being a nuisance.”
The Center Street Underpass project operates on the same principle. It gives kids a place to unleash their creativity without causing unwanted problems with private businesses.
“These kids are passionate, energetic and willing to go get spray paint and tag stuff,” Pohlman said. “Then everyone gets mad because they tagged a mom-and-pop business or some public infrastructure. But as a community, we haven’t actually offered these kids any type of equity in the community.”
“Everybody’s fanciful about the idea of Downtown Pocatello being cultivated and it being an up-and-coming place,” he continued. “But the commerce that happens in downtown is typically bars, antique shops, some divorce lawyers and some hair salons. So your typical 14 to 23-year-old adolescent or young adult, none of that appeals to them at all. So this is a way for them to have that equity in the community.”
Pohlman said the project essentially functions as a big free wall that allows people to legally express themselves through spray paint. He also said that this kind of outlet is sorely needed in these days of pandemic and social strife.
“There’s a lot of talk about mental health awareness in this country right now,” said Pohlman. “I think that’s fantastic because to date, that hasn’t really been a topic of discussion. But artistry can be very cathartic to a lot of people.”
Graffiti is also an art form one can engage in fairly economically, allowing people from a vast range of backgrounds and lifestyles to have a vehicle for self-expression.
“You might not have the ability to go out and buy a whole color swatch of oil pastels and a palette and the canvas and an easel and everything like that,” Pohlman said. “But basically anybody from any socioeconomic background can find themselves some old house paint, roller paint, spray paint or anything like that.”
Pohlman said that Sixes painted the tunnels last year prior to the pandemic and by the time the lockdown was lifted, people had already gone in and tagged the tunnel with their own contribution. That sparked the idea to open the project up to any young people who wanted to add to the artwork.
“‘Our art and our composition was completely ruined’ is what most people thought my sentiment about it would be,” he said. “Instead of being frustrated by it, I saw an opportunity in it. I could see that it was lots of people, not just one kid going through and wrecking it. It was people trying to work on my topography or some people trying to work on cartooning and some people working on illustration. I was really inspired by that.”
Pohlman said Sixes’ Center Street Underpass project is ongoing. People who want to contribute to the artwork may do so but any art that is vulgar or profane will be covered up. If you have an idea or a sketch you’d like to add, you can also drop by the Sixes shop and they’ll make sure you have all the supplies you need and help you realize your vision. Visit Sixes on Facebook to contact them or for more information.