By Jan Worth-Nelson
More than 20 artists from around the world are arriving in Flint this week, joining with a busy cadre of local muralists and Flint Public Art Project officials for a weeklong celebration of public art–the Free City Mural Festival at various locations downtown Tuesday through Saturday.
Events include a kickoff party at the Ferris Wheel from 7-9 p.m. Tuesday, an artists’ panel and reception at the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, 7-8-30 p.m. Wednesday, a panel about street art 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Totem Books, and a “grand unveil” of new murals created during the week along Saginaw Street between Atherton and Hemphill roads from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.
Already boasting more than 60 completed murals in the city created in a fever of street art over the past year, Joe Schipani, director of the Flint Public Art Project, has said the ultimate goal of the project is 100 completed murals by Fall, 2020.
The mural artists volunteer their time and talent, according to FPAP board member Sandra Branch, but all other costs–whatever is needed for surface preparation and paints, for example, are covered by FPAP and its fundraising.
She said in general each mural costs between $5,000 and $15,000 to create, depending on the size of the wall. The nonprofit FPAP has drawn the help and support of many local volunteers, she said, some of whom help scrape down and buff walls and provide for other needs.
A Patronicity fundraising campaign raised $17,700, exceeding the $15,000 goal, which will be matched by $15,000 from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) to support the festival and project, “to ensure that artists will have the tools necessary to create their art,” the Patronicity website stated.
And some controversy…
Like much street art which often is deliberately provocative, the project has stimulated both praise and spirited conversation, including a controversy described in Sept. 22 EVM article about a mural facing the parking lot of Woodside Church at 503 Garland St. in Carriage Town. The congregation objected to the mural, saying it perpetuated the objectification of women and was hyper sexualized.
A mediation process between the artist, Zach Curtis of Detroit, the Woodside congregation and board members of FPAP began last week, and work has temporarily halted on that mural as the negotiation process continues.
The mural is on a building owned by the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and is the first thing parishioners see when pulling into the Woodside parking lot. DDA Director Gerard Burnash has declined to participate in the debate, saying he does not have “a dog in the fight” and sees the matter as something to be worked out between FPAP and Woodside.
The mediator, Kady Yellow, has declined to talk to East Village Magazine about that mural and the mediation process until after the festival is over. An EVM reporter was asked to leave a community meeting by the mediator last week, over the objections of the Woodside representatives present.
While some FPAP representatives were willing to talk about it, they requested that the full story not be told until the mediation process is complete.
But representatives of both Woodside Church and the FPAP board said after a 90-minute meeting they are at least hopeful a process to deal with the mural is underway.
FPAP board member Sandra Branch, saying that she is speaking for herself and not the FPAP board as a whole, stated, “There’s a lot to consider when you’re dealing with public art.”
She said her view was that when it comes to public art, “Everybody from a stray dog and cat to the mayor should have a voice,” and she said she got involved because she wanted “to be sure that everybody involved has respect.”
Branch, who has actively mentored many Flint area taggers in how to make a transition to “legal art” and has guided the creation of many street art projects in the city, said the artist is creating a series of renderings for the wall to present to the congregation that perhaps they would find more respectful of them and their values.
EVM Editor Jan Worth-Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.