In June, a bright postcard-style mural with the words "Greetings from Alaska" popped up on the east end of downtown Anchorage, brightening up a brown wall on the side of a tourist industry association office.
The mural, created by two traveling artists from the Lower 48, is one of the city's newest murals. It joins scenes of hummingbirds, a fish camp next to a river, solar flares and snow crystals that adorn school hallways and public and private buildings.
The murals all represent Anchorage's ever-evolving collection of public art, said Enzina Marrari, the city's public art curator.
"Something that's really cool that's happening right now in Anchorage is that there's this kind of turn, a flip, in this understanding of the importance of public art and in art in general," Marrari said.
Some of the newer murals were created through a city program, 1% for Art, the decades-old process of setting aside a percentage of construction funds for public art.
Others are on private buildings. Private businesses and organizations can have murals painted as long as they don't constitute signage or advertising.
Here's a sampling of newer Anchorage murals, pointed out by Enzina Marrari, the city's public art curator. Marrari recently led a bike tour of public art in Anchorage. (Future events will be advertised on the 1% for Art Facebook page, she said.)
Romig Middle School: 'Ethnounis Portal'
In a hallway in Romig Middle School, cultural connections through music, color and vibration pulse in a 2016 mural by Portland, Oregon-based artists Angelina Marino-Heidel and Joel Heidel.
The mural was created through the 1% for Art program. The program kicks in when a public building is being built or extensively renovated and the construction budget exceeded $250,000. In that case, city law says one percent of the budget will be set aside for public art.
When it comes to picking the artist, a volunteer jury appointed by the mayor selects a proposal from what is often a huge stack of submissions. As renovation plans at Romig were underway in 2015, the jury picked the Marino-Heidel and Heidel mural, valued at $22,000, from more than 70 submissions from across the country.
The artists applied acrylic paint to an aluminum panel, which was then affixed to the wall. It can be removed if there's construction work at the school in the future, part of the public art program's emphasis on preservation, Marrari said.
At Covenant House, scenes of subsistence
At Eighth Avenue and Barrow Street, a sweeping mural with belugas, spawning salmon and caribou wraps around the corner of Covenant House Alaska, a shelter for homeless youths.
In the mural, Apayo Moore, a Yup'ik artist from Dillingham and Twin Hills in Southwest Alaska, tells a story of subsistence and daily life in rural Alaska, and the role of community. The mural was commissioned by Bristol Bay Native Corp. and completed in 2013. Covenant House youths helped Moore with the painting.
One sign next to a small girl reads: "It takes an entire village to raise a child." The girl is holding a bird in her hand, against the backdrop of a fish camp and a village.
The piece shows the effectiveness of murals as a platform for extensive visual storytelling, Marrari said.
On Fairbanks Street: 'Greetings From Alaska'
A mural that emulates vintage postcards popped up on a west-facing wall on Fifth Avenue a few weeks ago. It says "Greetings from Alaska" and features iconic images like a bear, Denali, a floatplane, eagles and the northern lights.
During a June summer concert downtown, Artists Victor Ving and Lisa Beggs, who are traveling around the U.S. painting similar murals, approached representatives of the Anchorage Downtown Partnership. The artists had planned to paint the mural for the city of Juneau, but it didn't work out. They asked if there was a possibility of painting it in Anchorage instead, said Penny Smythe, director of marketing for the Anchorage Downtown Partnership.
The Downtown Partnership helped connect the artists with the plain brown wall of the Alaska Travel Industry Association's office building at 610 E. Fifth Ave. The completed mural is now a bright spot in a sea of mostly gray and brown walls in the area, Marrari said.
The mural is also an example of an effort spearheaded by the Downtown Partnership to promote downtown vibrancy. Smythe said the organization has been researching grants that can be used by businesses to create art and beautify storefronts.
The hummingbirds of Mountain View's Commercial Drive
In 2015, Anchorage artist Linda Lyons, who works in a studio in Mountain View, transformed a tall, pale beige wall on the side of the Hispanic Cultural Center into a mural. The building is part of Mountain View's main commercial corridor, visible to people who are walking from the east end to shops at the center of the neighborhood. The mural was commissioned by the Anchorage Community Land Trust, a Mountain View-based nonprofit whose community work includes a facade improvement program, with a grant from the Atwood Foundation.
The mural features two hummingbirds framing a red flower in front of a scene of lakes and hills. Lyons' soft, muted style has a dream-like quality, Marrari said.
The mural celebrates the rufous hummingbird, a tiny creature that migrates from Mexico to southern Alaska.
ML&P's Plant 2A: 'Cosmic Rise'
Commuters on the Glenn Highway are by now familiar with the eye-catching mural that rises up on the side of the George M. Sullivan Plant 2A, the expansion of an existing power plant owned by Municipal Light & Power.
In the mural, the designs are meant to express the movement of the energy, from the sun on the left to the microscopic level of snow crystals turning to rain. In between, a bear and moose layered over constellations invoke the idea of ancestors in the sky, or spiritual energy, the artists said in their proposal.
The $265,050 mural, paid out of the new plant's construction budget, was completed in 2017 by Seattle-based artists Laura Haddad and Tom Drugan. It was one of 210 proposals submitted internationally to the jury, Marrari said.
Jurors liked the "interconnectiveness of energy and light of the Alaska environment," Marrari said. In the winter, a lighting effect, more typically used on stages, plays up the mural's colors to create an illusion of movement.