Julie Mallis, aka Julie Malice, is a Pittsburgh based multimedia artist. Some people may know them as the Creative Director for BOOM Concepts or as a youth cycling instructor at BikePGH.
While Julie has been busy over the past few years supporting the development and careers of other artists, this spring they are gearing up for some personal artistic pursuit. I met up with Julie over some French toast at the Gluten Free Goat, to talk about everything on the horizon.
One of the first points of our discussion was Julie telling me about their interest in public art by saying, “I’m interested in the accessibility of it. That means going beyond creating spaces for non-disabled people; to also focus on spaces for everyone, paying additional attention to people that cannot afford admission prices. Public art is great because there are no specific viewing hours and no admission fees.” All of this was leading up to the very exciting news related to Julie’s spring and summer project, which is designing the artwork and painting the next Strawberry Way Mural.
For those that are not familiar, the alleyway of Strawberry Way is a pedestrian corridor downtown, with a wayfinding mural that was produced by Envision Downtown and the Office of Public Art. Artist Deanna Mance designed and coordinated the last installation.
As Julie prepares to take the design for Strawberry Way before the City’s Art Commission, Julie is working with a theme that is similar to the game ‘The Floor is Lava,’ starting at the Grant Street entrance to Strawberry Way.
Then as the design proceeds down the corridor, it may feature fruits that are grown locally, in he order of their appearance by season. Some of those inclusions will be cherries, peaches, grapes, watermelons, and pears.
While Julie is approaching this project with a sense of kid-centric fun, the other intent is to provide a space for self-reflection and a lens to question its viewers. Julie talked about the history of what was there before Strawberry Way, and who in present day are deemed of value and are invited to claim a stake in the changes that will occur in our city. Taking into consideration that along Strawberry Way are places which cater to a niche upper class audience, right alongside visible homelessness and people that are struggling to exist, that stuck with them as they continued their design work. Julie pointed out to me that along this very alleyway appear some of the City’s most pressing structural and social issues, tying the conversation back all to the concept of the fruit, with a consideration to include text in the Strawberry Way design that states, “Who’s missing from your table?”
Concurrently, Julie is planning for an exhibition at Percolate Gallery in Wilkinsburg, which is run by another fabulous artist, Carolyn Pierotti. For that work, Julie is preparing an interactive built environment. Improving upon a past installation they will be working on a fully immersive experience for the visitor, opening on June 22. To tie the two projects together, along with Julie’s love of biking, they are working with the Office of Public Art to curate a bike tour from Strawberry Way to Percolate sometime during the month of August.
For so many local artists, Julie Mallis has been a collaborator and/or mentor. At this moment, we’ll all have the opportunity to watch Julie blossom their own practice, along with having the opportunity to consider the impact that art can have on the greater community.