In Moscow’s newest public art mural, “Hands Up,” golden fists rise toward the sky amidst lightning bolts in a statement of the power in unity.
“The power of people unifying for a cause, regardless of political persuasion, is relevant and timeless,” said Carly Lilly, one of the owners of the Moscow Hotel where the mural was recently completed on the building’s north side.
The mural is one of three in the state commissioned by the American Civil Liberties Union to commemorate its 25th anniversary in Idaho.
The mural was created by professional artists Karen Rohn of Potlatch and Shogo Ota of Camano Island, Wash. In their artists’ statement, they wrote “Hands Up” symbolizes: “We put our hands up for happiness. We put them up in protest. Together we put our hands up in unity behind a cause we believe in.”
“Both of us were really hoping this piece does help inspire people in whatever they want to stand up for, and believe in, and celebrate,” said Rohn, a 1990 University of Idaho graduate, and owner of Blackbird at the Depot in Potlatch. Ota graduated from UI in ’07 and owns Tireman Studio in Camano. He also is Rohn’s son-in-law.
“I just really want to make it clear that this is more about happy and less about angry,
more about unity and less about individualism,” Rohn said.
Space for the mural was donated by Lilly and George Skandalos, co-owners of Sangria Grille and Maialina Pizzeria Napoletana in Moscow. They acquired the hotel, which includes apartments and the Garden Lounge, in August. They plan to move Sangria to the hotel in late 2019 or early 2020, Skandalos said.
Lilly formed a committee of local people to help select the winning design from artist submissions.
“We felt like it was really important to engage the community in such a large, public work,” Lilly said.
Members of the committee included representatives from the Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre, the Human Rights Commission of Moscow, UI Law School, ACLU, Moscow Arts Commission and the Prichard Art Gallery, she said.
The ACLU gave selected cities a $3,000 grant to create a mural. Moscow’s mural is the largest in the state because of local fundraising efforts to increase its size. Receipts are still being totaled, but the total cost of the mural will be around $22,000, Lilly said. They have raised all but $3,000. Through Monday, the Kenworthy is accepting donations of less than $500 for the project, she said.
The final step will be to add an engraved brass plaque to the site that will tell the story of the project.
Other Idaho cities chosen for murals were Garden City and Idaho Falls. The Idaho Falls mural has ignited some controversy. Titled “Look and Listen,” it features hands performing signs in American Sign Language. The signs are supposed to depict words for “ask,” “understand,” “listen” and “look” but some members of the area’s deaf community have complained the artist’s representation doesn’t make sense.
The ACLU is a national nonprofit organization that has worked for nearly a century to defend and preserve individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States.