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This Big-Time Artist Brings Murals to the Community and Your Home



Dream big. These words are not only the advice a mentor once told artist Kelli Bickman, it’s also the philosophy behind her work with Youth Mural Arts, a grassroots community-engaged public art program she founded in 2009 in Peekskill.

“There was a teacher that I had in college who said, ‘If you make enough of it, and you make it big enough, people will start to pay attention,’” says Bickman. “I loved that, so I started making large paintings.”

Her art, which she describes as “contemporary pop with a neo goddess flair,” has not only appeared in public spaces around Peekskill, Saugerties, Hyde Park, Poughkeepsie, Highland Falls, and Woodstock, but in homes from Scotland to Wisconsin and everywhere in between.

Murals in the home are a passion, but they are also time-consuming and take a lot of planning; in addition, they can cost from $1,000 up to $30,000 and up, depending on the size and amount of detail.


Photo by Connie Bickman


Young at Art

With Youth Mural Arts, Bickman has worked with thousands of young people and dozens of artists throughout the Hudson Valley to create large-scale public art projects “that inspire action and forward thinking in otherwise at-risk populations.”

One project she worked on with Youth Mural Arts recruited children from the Peekskill Youth Bureau to create public art and murals on buildings and within schools that “engages the community, energizes community spaces, and shares art education with the children.”

Other projects by Youth Mural Arts include a 36 ft mural at Phoenicia Elementary and an 8-by-24-ft mural at the Hudson Valley Community Center in Poughkeepsie, designed and painted by the students at HVCC working in conjunction with professional artists.


Murals at Cahill Elementary / Photo by Kelli Bickman


After clients have decided to commission a mural, Bickman works through the entire process with them. “I come to an agreement with the homeowner. We talk about their budget, what they’re looking for,” says Bickman. “What feelings are you looking to evoke? Do you want nature, etc.?”

“I do drawings, then a digital mockup to show them exactly what it’s going to look like. We have everything mapped out in advance and then I start the process of painting it. Of course, there is room for modification.”

And because the murals can take up to four or five months to complete, Bickman likes to create them out of her studio on canvas or on wood and then install them, “so I’m not in their house a month on end,” says Bickman. “Then it’s also removable if they move so they can take it with them.”

And what does she love most about creating murals? “The intimacy of it,” says Bickman. “I love working one-on-one with clients.”


HVCC mural / Photo by Kelli Bickman

Related: Peek Inside Rosendale’s Whimsical, Wonderful Rainbow House

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