Downtown Riverside Arts Walls (DRAW) Project

The Downtown North Riverside Art Walls project will cover 4,700sqft of concrete walls surrounding the recently upgraded electrical substation on S. Pattee St. – within the North Riverside Parks & Trails Plan area – with Montana Indigenous visual and language art murals.


The west, south and east-facing portion of the walls will showcase three different enlarged linocut prints by Salish artist Frank Finley – bison, magpie and fish. The bison print will run along the S. Pattee St./east-facing wall with original text by Debra Magpie Earling; original poem in English by Vic Charlo and its Salish translation by April Charlo.


The north/Bank St Parking wall will have a series of Ledger Art pieces showcasing its historical significance. Curation of art for the space is yet to be finalized. The below images are for demonstration purposes only.


The magpie and fish prints will complete the south- and west-facing walls.


All funds raised will be directly spent on the DRAW project to pay the participating artists, authors and poets, pay for all mural materials, printing costs and to cover all expenses related to mural installation.

This project not only provides free, accessible art for everyone but also meets multiple goals in the Missoula Downtown Master Plan (MDMP). “Art enhances public spaces and plays an important role in many communities throughout the country’s history. Art not only is representational of a community and its culture but also invokes placemaking. Big art celebrates a place’s culture and is iconic; it is unique and belongs solely to that community.” (MDMP p. 4.6)

“There are locations for potential (big art) installations which could make a lasting impact on the community and region. The electrical substation in Caras Park is the backdrop to the Clark Fork River Market. The substation is not going anywhere, but through the use of art this important backdrop can be transformed into something much more interesting and positive for the community.” (MDMP p. 4.6)

The significance of highlighting the diversity of Indigenous people has long been a goal of Missoula’s cultural institutions and this project will enhance and add to initiatives underway at the University, our art galleries and art museums (MAM & MMAC), Fort Missoula, Arts Missoula, our new public library, the Indian Education for All program and ongoing initiatives in Missoula’s Public Art Committee. This project also addresses goals to highlight, celebrate and preserve area Indigenous culture and heritage in both the MDMP and the Missoula Downtown Heritage Interpretive Plan (MDHIP):

  • “Consider ways to integrate Native American heritage into other topics, such as military history, arts, music, literature, poetry, and transportation.” (MDHIP p. 49)
  • “Highlight Native American heritage through public art by commissioning Indigenous artists to produce work.” (MDHIP p. 49)
  • “A ‘downtown for all’ must celebrate and preserve the diverse voices and forms of expression that have made Missoula an authentic hometown and vibrant destination for so many. Policies should be explored and adopted to prevent cultural displacement, particularly for the local indigenous population who contribute so much to the unique history, landscape, and culture of Western Montana, and to protect Missoula’s vulnerable cultural resources and people from the disproportionate effects of rising housing and commercial space costs.” (MDMP p. 4.4)

This project adheres to Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles by serving as graffiti prevention/deterrent. It is well known that blank concrete surfaces get tagged and graffitied, while walls covered with mural art rarely do. In addition to the visual blight, graffiti art removal is time-consuming and costly. We also know that a destination such as a major public art mural will attract positive activity that enhances the vitality of the city center.

Downtown Missoula’s riverfront parks attract nearly one million residents and visitors each year. Downtown hotels, the riverfront promenade, a brand-new bridge, a vibrant farmers’ market and nearly 100 community events and festivals, as well as parking for nearly 1,200 vehicles, make the area around the substation a major destination for all. The opportunity to improve the safety, cleanliness and aesthetics around the substation is critical and timely.

The fundraising goal for this project is $95,000 with $23,000 raised to date (May 1, 2024). Please consider a donation today to helping make this plan become a reality!

Donations can be made to the Missoula Downtown Foundation online or by mail to 218 E. Main St Suite C, Missoula, MT 59802

Donate Here
DRAW Project

This project exists through a partnership between Northwestern Energy, Missoula Parks & Recreation, the Missoula Downtown Foundation and community volunteer engagement. Four local, Salish artists have committed to the project including visual artist Frank Finley; author and award-winning novelist Debra Magpie Earling; and poets Vic Charlo and April Charlo.

Phase 1 – East Wall

Featuring Salish Artists, Frank Finley, Debra Magpie Earling, Vic and April Charlo, thhe first phase of the project will be located on the substation’s East face wall along Pattee Street.

Phase 2 – North Wall

The second phase of the DRAW Project will feature historical Native American ledger art. The location spans over 150ft in length and 11ft in height.

Phase 3 – South, Southwest, West Walls

Phase 3 covers the remaining South, Southwest and West-facing walls. These are the most visible walls from the Bear Tracks Bridge, the Riverside Parking Lot where the Clark Fork River Market will return to this season and from Ron’s River Trail.