by Mackenzie QuinnTuesday, November 2nd 2021
BUTTE, Mont. — After years of talk, Butte is seeing the first sign of action when it comes to restoring Uptown.
Plans began three years ago to clean up alleyways, starting with hanging lights in the area.
“We had people in the alley, we actually held a movie,” said Julie Jaksha with Headwaters. “We had folks that ate lunch out here, they ate out here for dinner, they hung out. There was Irish dance that was performed in the alley. Then we decided to go for the next phase, which is of course the murals on all the walls. Unfortunately, though, with the pandemic, it hit and that had us close the alley down.”
However, the pandemic was not the only challenge Butte residents and development teams faced.
In May, the historic M&M Bar and Cafe that sat off Park Street and Main Street caught fire and burned to the ground.
“The fire at the M&M was kind of a gut punch to a lot of us here,” explained Jon Wick, owner of 5518 Designs. “The trickle-down effect of that has been felt throughout, you know, pretty much all of Uptown. So, that’s been tough to overcome.”
Even after the fire, the lights in the alleyway held strong.
Wick said when he saw the lights, he saw hope.
After three years of planning, Wick and Jaksha decided to act and bring past plans of restoring the alleyway to life.
“Julie got ahold of me about three years ago and said we want to put some murals in the alley,” said painter and photographer Josie Trudgeon.
In the back of Wick’s building, Lizzie Block Alley, Trudgeon got to work.
“I was nervous about it,” noted Trudgeon. “I hadn’t done anything this scale. But once I got going, it was really fun.”
The finished mural takes up the entire back wall of the 5518 Designs building. While big in scale, Wick explained that the impact on the community is bigger than just their wall.
“We like to walk the walk,” said Wick. “We talk about how we want our Uptown to be in the future. We talk about things like public art and parklets and a walkable, accessible, beautiful Uptown and through our work at 5518 Designs, we can use that as kind of a base camp to launch some of our ideas and projects. We can be an example that people look at and and see that wow, these things are are working and they look good. We can do those in Butte.”
Jaksha stated that after three years of delay, this new mural is a huge accomplishment and a symbol of hope in the face of adversity.