Murals in Lansing bring community together

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on the side of Soup Spoon Cafe. Photo courtesy of Ella Kovacs

On the side of Soup Spoon Cafe. Photo courtesy of Ella Kovacs

By Ella Kovacs
Listen Up Lansing Staff Reporter

Any amount of time spent in downtown Lansing is enough to notice the many large, colorful murals adorning the wall of local businesses. These public works of art are a prominent part of the community, and bring a special sort of life to Lansing and its residents.

“Public art creates community as its created by a community,” said Keith Buchele, owner of Soup Spoon Cafe in Lansing.

The outside of Impression 5 science museum. Photo courtesy of Ella Kovacs

The outside of Impression 5 science museum. Photo courtesy of Ella Kovacs

This restaurant has a huge, interactive painting on the side that reads “Thank You, Michigan” and is covered with the prompt “I’m grateful for ___”. The spaces are intended to be filled with chalk writing, resulting in a giant community blessings board.

“It creates dialogue and foot traffic among our guests,” said Buchele.

This dialogue and foot traffic can bring the community and individuals together in ways that they would not otherwise be able to connect.

The outside of Hotwater Works. Photo courtesy of Ella Kovacs

The outside of Hotwater Works. Photo courtesy of Ella Kovacs

Murals with such distinction can become a point of recognition of an area for local residents and visitors alike.

“Works of public art can be used as a landmark,” said Laura Griffith, Assistant Director for the Association for Public Art. “It can define an area.”

However, not all of Lansing’s murals have to be interactive to have an impact on the community.

Impression 5 science museum is a place for kids to learn about the world around them with interactive exhibits. The outside wall of the building houses a mural that combines art and science that was created by a local artist.

Erik Larson is the Executive Director of Impression 5 and talked about how they get a lot of questions as to what the mural is about, as well as positive comments.

“Public art plays a very important role in creative placemaking,” said Larson. He talked about how important it is for art to be in the mix of materials helping kids learn.

Larson also talked about how public art brings communities together because they can make it together and then engage in it together.

One set of murals, on the side of Hotwater Works in Lansing, is enjoyed by locals every day but especially brought people together while it was being created.

“‘People in the neighborhood came by while we were painting and watched us and talked to us and everybody says that they love it, I mean we never heard one negative thing about it at all,” said James McFarland, owner and founder of Hotwater Works.

McFarland painted three murals on the side of his business last October with his art partner, Julian Van Dyke.

Griffith talked about how community is the general audience for public art, and these installations can serve many purposes.

Factoid courtesy of Laura Griffith

She said that it can make a space more appealing, and even make a space appear safer.

Larson said that public art is for “cool” cities that have diversity, and in turn, have diverse art options.

Lansing is without a doubt a city full of urban professionals, students, and residents young and old. The murals everywhere are a clear indicator that Lansing takes it’s art seriously as a staple to what makes Lansing, Lansing.

“Everything about public art is about community,” said Griffith.

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