For being a tucked away mountain town, the greater Sun Valley area is home to an incredibly robust arts community. The lure of the outdoors and unassuming networking opportunities seem to continually draw mavens to the region. From skilled craftsmen to award-winning film makers to highly coveted painters and beyond, the Valley is teeming with talent.
Molly Snee happens to be one of these sensationally skilled individuals that call Sun Valley home. If you’ve roamed the streets of Ketchum, chances are high that you’ve spotted some of Molly Snee’s work around town. From posters for City-sponsored events to various outdoor murals to her self-published guides to Ketchum, Snee’s particular brand of illustration is hard to miss. If you have yet to venture to the Sun Valley area, there’s still a chance that you’ve Molly’s work. In addition to her creative endeavors and local jobs in her home-base of Ketchum, Snee has started to expand into the national market with recent gigs illustrating for the New York Times, Restoration Hardware, Southwest Airlines, and The Boston Globe. Snee’s ability to make the Ketchum scene work for her career while also helping to enhance the creative spirit of the town makes her the perfect example of the characters that make this Idaho town unique.
Snee grew up in Virginia before attending Syracuse University in upstate New York where she graduated in 2012. She shortly thereafter moved down to New York City, where she lived for two years before heading out west to Idaho to explore new opportunities. While she still worked on various illustration projects and her own sketchbooks, Snee worked in a restaurant as so many other Ketchum-ites do. “Sometimes I hit these points where everything shuts down and I decide I have to change something and I won’t be happy until I do,” says Snee of quitting her restaurant job this last spring. “I hit a corner and I was ready. I decided I’d happily do boring design work or whatever it takes.”
Since freelancing full-time, Snee has started working for the city of Ketchum on anything visual: their bimonthly newsletters and any artwork to market city-sponsored events. Some other works of hers that can be seen around town are her mural at the Ketchum skate park done for the Ketchum Arts Commission for the unveiling of the park additions, her sheep mural on the side of Hotel Ketchum, temporary murals at the Warfield for NatGeo at the annual Sun Valley Film Festival, and illustrations for covers and editorial features for Big Lifeand SVPN magazines. She also did a mural in Carey for local dog food company Idahound and for a while was producing her own illustrated guides to Ketchum.
Perhaps making the biggest mark on her current career has been her recent work with theNew York Times. “Since I became interested in illustration, editorial was what I wanted to do,” says Snee. “When I was a teenager, it was the Times that got me excited. There was a great illustration and I said, ‘I love whatever this person did.’”
After attending conferences and networking events with other illustrators for the last few months, all her networking paid off. Through a friend of a friend in New York, Snee got her foot in the door with an art director at the Times. With one meeting set, she called other art directors who were much more inclined to meet with her knowing she already had a meeting. In the end, someone she hadn’t even intended to meet ending up seeing her work and telling her that she wanted to hire her. That person was Sarah Williamson, an art director for the Opinion section of the Times. Snee was put on call for a two-week stint during which she would check her email for whether she had a story and then have a short six-hour window to turn around a fully realized piece. “The whole experience was amazing and also almost scary,” says Snee. “I was surprised to get offered the gig just because I figured I would be at the pinnacle of my career by the time I worked for the Times.” Now that she’s worked for them once, she’ll remain on their roster of artists to be called on for future assignments.
Despite Snee’s rising star in the illustration world, Ketchum remains her home base and she has no plans to change that anytime soon. When asked why she chooses to stay and work from Ketchum, she struggles to find the words before deciding,
“I guess I just like it here! It sounds so mediocre to say, but I really can’t find a good reason to leave. I check in with myself every few months because it really defies logic to stay here but obviously we all love it here. It gets a little confusing because all of the reasons to stay here don’t necessarily have anything to do with my career.”
Snee recently rented out her own art studio space in the Bitterroot building in Ketchum, giving herself the physical and mental space for work, projects, and her own creative ventures. “I love working and freelancing and having my own schedule and physical space to work in. The hardest thing for me is to stop and go outside and go on a hike,” explains Snee.
Snee’s office is a display of all the tools necessary to make her jobs happen whether that’s painting or drawing by hand, scanning and photoshopping drawn images, or using a Wacom tablet for digital illustration. “I’ve embraced digital platforms a lot more but I still like things to at least appear like they were drawn by my hand, even if in fact it was digitally illustrated,” says Snee of her mediums.
As for what’s up next for her, Snee will continue her work with the City as well as pursuing more work similar to her New York Times editorial work. “There are so many things I want to be doing,” says Snee. “I have many things in the idea stage.” Stay on the lookout for her work around town! And for more information on Molly’s work, visit mollysnee.com.
For a quick overview of more arts & culture opportunities in the Sun Valley area, scope our :30 video below that includes a cameo by Molly Snee.