LEAP program helps Delhi Township create art in order to create more community

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'Happy in Holt' sculpture on March 21.

Delhi Township unveiled a new piece of art called “Happy in Holt” created by artist Matthew Lincoln in front of the Delhi Township offices this past November.

This “Happy in Holt” art piece, along with a sculpture at the Veterans Memorial, and a butterfly piece at the Holt Farmers’ Market are a couple of the Delhi Township’s attempts to create a more welcoming and vibrant community.

“Delhi Township is continuing to grow and attract families,” said Delhi Township Supervisor John Hayhoe. “Art is just one of the many things that people look for when they move into a community. Sidewalks, walking paths, parks, schools, and art are all important in attracting new people so our community will continue to grow.  The artist tried to create a ‘happy’ structure and if you look at it, it appears to be a ‘smile,’ so ‘Happy in Holt’ it became.”

Butterfly art hangs above the Holt Farmers' Market on March 21.

Butterfly art hangs above the Holt Farmers’ Market on March 21.

Delhi Township is a member of LEAP which stands for Lansing Economic Area Partnership. LEAP’s program grants funds to local communities around the Lansing area to help with their art programs.

These art pieces in Holt were all granted by the LEAP program.

“LEAP is the regional economic development organization for the Lansing region,” said Tri-County Development and Placemaking Manager for LEAP Josh Holliday. “We know that in order to create and foster vibrant communities we need strong businesses, trained and educated talent, and communities that have the basic needs and amenities to showcase us as a global economy. The Public Art for Communities program was established to shift our rust-belt image to one of sophistication, diversity, creativity and innovation. We believe to attract and retain the best businesses and talent, we need thriving and unique places to live, work, and play. The arts and this grant program allow us to achieve this.”

The LEAP program asks that municipalities adopt a public art policy or community ordinance, and once they have done that they can apply to be one of the communities that will be awarded $10,000 to place a piece of public art within the public right-of-way in their communities.

“Townships are about choices,” said Hayhoe. “Art is about choices and this community values art, Placemaking and overall resident enjoyment. Therefore, we choose to support public art and appreciate LEAP’s participation in this effort.”

This program is funded through LEAP’s general fund as well as through contributions of PNC Foundation.

“It is statistically proven that any community that invests in art, receives a greater investment back than what they put into it,” said University of Florida Art History professor Richard Heipp. “I truly believe you build a community through art. Art’s a vehicle for interpretation.”

Delhi Township followed LEAP’s intended idea of putting the art pieces in the public right-of-way within the community by giving the newest piece of art a road side view placed right off to the side on Aurelius Road. This way people don’t have to go out of their way to view the art work, and people visiting get a glimpse just by driving through.

“All great cultures have had art as one of the measures of the greatness of that culture,” said Heipp. “If you think about it, cities and towns and communities can be measured on that scale as well.”

So far, the cities of Mason, St. Johns, East Lansing, Lansing, Charlotte, and DeWitt as well as the townships of DeWitt, Delta, Delhi, and Meridian have received funding to put their pieces of art in place through this program.

“We have received tremendous support from the private sector for the impact this program has on our region and each of the communities funded,” said Holliday. “We certainly look forward to continuing this program for years to come as we continue to build and craft LEAP’s position in the placemaking arena.”

There’s more thought that goes into the tall, bronze arch that people pass in Holt on their way to work everyday than one would think. And although subtle, it does have an impact on the community and sends a certain vibe about the type of city one is driving through.

“Humans are the only ones that make art,” said Heipp. “Animals don’t make art. We make art to make us feel, to make us think, and reflect upon our roles as human beings.”

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