By Tom Travis
Entering the Flint Art Walk Friday night at Third Street and Saginaw, you hear the sounds of hip-hop and R&B. An open mic is provided for anyone brave enough to try a song on karaoke–though nobody’s there yet in the early evening sunlight.
Right away, you’re greeted by various vendors participating in pop-up shops with #imbuildingsomething, a consulting business started by Ebony Gipson.
She offers to tell her story. Gipson said she started the business to “elevate the role of small businesses in our community.” Last year during Thanksgiving week, #imbuildingsomething held an event at Word of Life Church, 460 W. Atherton Road, Flint where 80 small businesses came together to offer a place for the community to come together in one place to buy and support these local businesses and entrepreneurs by purchasing their products and services. #imbuildingsomething has offices at 107 E. 3rd Street in downtown Flint.
As you head north up Saginaw Street. restaurants spill over onto the sidewalk into popular patio seating. Businesses have their doors open and greeters at the door welcome you in to take a look. One is Karen Church, CEO of ELGA Credit Union, smiling brightly and hardly containing her enthusiasm for Flint.
“I love seeing the streets filled with people,” Church says. “It’s just fabulous the comeback Flint is having. I love the new murals being painted all over the city.”
In the background ,The Corner Boys band are belting out soothing sounds of old classics. Morris Hyatt croons into the mic as he hits the ivories, adding to the energy of TGIF and inviting everyone to enjoy the evening.
Across the street at the bustling Ferris Wheel Building, an ice cream social is being served up, perfect for a balmy July evening. Joleen Hyuck of Swartz Creek says, “I love downtown Flint. I took my kids to Foster Coffee then we had some ice cream at the Ferris Wheel ice cream social. This is our first time at the Art Walk. We had a great time–very relaxing. It’s so exciting to see all the new businesses opening.”
Artists like Candace Duggan and Brian Collver are working on paintings while guests watch and eat their ice cream before it melts.
Like Hyuck, Rita Perkins of Flint is visiting The Flint Art Walk for the first time. She’s listening to the jazz band and perusing the art exhibit at the Mott-Warsh Gallery (MW Gallery). at the corner of Saginaw and Court streets.
“This is amazing,” Perkins says. ” I’ll be back.”
Longtime Flint resident Julie Koger is checking it all out. Having worked at Flint City Hall since 1970, she says she has seen Flint evolve over the decades.
“It doesn’t feel like Flint, but I’m so glad it is Flint.” Koger said. Asked her impression of Art Walk, she replies, “I think it’s just wonderful.”
Meanwhile, people are nibbling on a spread of cheeses, fresh meats and fruit catered by Cork on Saginaw and laid out in the small lounge for all to enjoy.
Abby Anderson, visiting from Crooksville, Ohio, says, “It was wonderful to see so many different types of art. In particular, my favorite were the installments in the MW Gallery– something not to be missed. Being from out of town, I wasn’t aware of the rich culture of Flint.”
Scarlin de la Cruz, from Santiago Dominican Republic, says she’s staying in town for the summer and “I couldn’t be more thrilled about it. The things I hear about Flint are the water crisis and not about the development and the really wonderful things happening in the community. I recommend the experience and surely looking forward to the next one!”
Just down the street, the Tiffany windows in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church are a favorite site. Both First Presbyterian Church of Flint and St. Paul’s Epsicopal welcome Art Walk guests. At St. Paul’s, July artist Thomas L. Myers is displaying and selling his impressionistic paintings.
Outside St. Paul’s, Wayne Luck and Brody Luck are strolling the Art Walk. “We like to get out on these weekends and experience the cultures of Flint,” Wayne says. “I see a gradual up tick in Flint for sure but I do worry about gentrification taking place as well.”
Some planning is suggested for how to tackle the Art Walk, which takes place every second Friday of the month. . But everyone travels the streets their own way, enjoying whatever piques their interests. Snacks, cheese and wine, cookies, popcorn and ice cream are almost always available in most venues. A word of advice: be careful not to fill up on these yummy snacks because after you’ve walked the streets for Art Walk you’ll want to choose your favorite restaurant to sit and enjoy a meal while you relax from the adventure.
Banner photo: Michigan Renaissance Festival cast members handing out coupons for discounted tickets for their upcoming Fall event. (l to r) Kitty Dunn, Joshua Kitchen, Mary Page Rieffel and Lxs De Signer (Photo by Tom Travis).
EVM staff writer Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.