By Stacie Scherman
Flint Public Art Project (FPAP) is now under new local leadership as a result of recent changes to its organizational structure. Former director and FPAP founder Stephen Zacks stepped down into the newly created creative director position. He is succeeded by FPAP’s new interim director, Joe Schipani.
Zacks has been commuting to Flint from his home in New York since founding FPAP in 2011 and said that it has been a challenge to manage the day-to-day operations of the organization.
“The most important thing for the organization is to have a new direction and new leadership [that is] grounded locally. This should facilitate better management of projects and a firmer grounding in a local set of interests and goals,” Zacks said.
According to Schipani, the board of directors was also expanded to include seven new members local to Flint.
Schipani has lived in Flint for ten years and has been involved with FPAP since its founding. He said that his goals as interim director are to establish more partnerships throughout Flint and to move the Spencer’s Center for Art and Architecture (SCAA) project forward.
According to the FPAP website, SCAA, located at 520 University Ave., will be a community art space for local and visiting artists with studios, a performance stage, meeting space, and outdoor garden and screening area. Schipani said that FPAP has four movie and live music nights planned this summer at SCAA beginning June 11.
Other planned events include six monthly art parades beginning April 28 at Ballenger Park, and the fourth annual Free City festival at Chevy Commons Aug. 19-20. Schipani said that the purpose of FPAP’s projects and events is to bring attention to overlooked and abandoned spaces in Flint and to reimagine potential uses for those spaces.
According to Schipani, the Free City theme this year is Motion in Play. The festival will include live music, performances, and art installations, including Desiree Duell’s “A Body of Water,” which uses empty water bottles to address the Flint water crisis.
Other art parade locations are planned to include Durant Park, Iroquois Park, Eldorado Vista Park, Kennedy Center, and Potter Longway neighborhood. Schipani said that each parade will include a different walking route with temporary and permanent art installations and performances. He added that FPAP will clean up the site of each parade and host a block party “for everyone in the area and parade participants to celebrate and have fun.”
Jay Rowland, FPAP’s new program coordinator, will work with Schipani to plan and facilitate all of the upcoming events, including planning art parade route logistics and coordinating artists and performers for the Free City festival. Rowland said that his new position combines the different roles he has filled over the last two years as a volunteer for FPAP.
Zacks said that as creative director he will return to Flint two or three times to do research, site visits, to assess how well the programs are running, and make recommendations. He added that he will “continue to frame the organization and projects in a broader context of global art and design practices.”
According to Zacks, the long term goal of FPAP is to expand into five to ten buildings in a square block and use the spaces for things like studios, photo shoots, workshops, and office spaces. He added, “If I were to nudge the direction, it would be to also open up a space for a new imaginative architecture that could accommodate the programs. Whether it’s an exhibition space or production workshop or even some kind of relaxation space for visiting artists and the community to use.”