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Montana artist completes second underpass mural

Posted at 10:55 AM, Sep 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-14 12:59:49-04

BILLINGS — A Billings artist has finished the second mural in an effort to beautify some of the city’s gray and dingy southside underpasses.

But completing the mural was no easy feat, as Elyssa Leininger spent some five hundred hours painting every detail to the North 13Th Street underpass. By Monday, Leininger said the mural was complete.

You might think it'd be hard for her to concentrate, with the rush of loud vehicles using the underpass as well as honks and waves.

“Yeah, I get a lot of honks and waves,” she said. “It’s a lot of people saying thank you, but really, I thank them for all of their support.”

She’s here because of a grant secured from the Big Sky Economic Development with help from the Southside Neighborhood Task Force to turn massive walls of concrete gray into bold browns, hues of bright and joyful oranges, and uplifting yellows.

This is the second of a series of murals for Billings’ underpasses, the first is at 6th Street where Leininger says that one took her about twice as long to complete.

“And collectively, we call these two girls the gateway to the Yellowstone,” she said.

Her vision for the art comes from her love of the area she grew up.

“The Yellowstone Valley, like a panoramic view. These are all of the landscapes that surround the Yellowstone valley depicting it before the time of humans being,” she said.

Although it seems like she’s been painting forever, Leininger says she only started painting roughly five years ago while studying abroad in Italy.

“When I started painting, I fell in love with it and kept going,” she said. “I always admired the landscape surrounding the Yellowstone Valley and Billings.

She says she’s spent a lot of time in Yellowstone National Park and was a biology major, so animals are a focus of study, which makes painting them so natural.

When asked what her favorite part of the mural has been creating so far, Leininger says she likes the baby bison and its mother, because it symbolizes new life.

She hopes when people look at her work, they feel happy.

“I just want them to smile,” she said. “I hope it makes their day, just a little bit brighter.”

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