Madison Heights Arts Board Unveils 2nd Mural
(Mark Bliss, Madison Heights Councilperson, June 19, 2020)
Madison Heights, MI – I’m excited that at the last council meeting on June 8th, the Madison Heights City Council voted unanimously to receive and file the report from our Arts Board to allow our 2nd mural to go up in Rosie’s Park. Like our last mural in Civic Center Park, the artwork will span an entire building in the park, continuing our efforts to infuse culture and interest to our public spaces. After a blind selection process, our extremely talented resident, Jennifer Ramirez, was once again chosen to be the featured artist.
Her concept was inspired by the work of Franz Marc. We chose it because it features animals that visitors could actually come across while walking the trails at the park. Rabbits, squirrels, deer, and foxes are among the animals on display both on the mural and in the park. In the future, we plan to install educational signage on the animals included on the mural to deepen the experience for park-goers.
Public art like this mural serves an important role in communities like ours. It brings people together, it inspires, and it helps to build identity. It also assists with place-making and turns a standard park or building into a memorable experience. And in challenging economic times like these, when growth is more difficult, data shows that city’s with publicly accessible art are more attractive to potential residents and businesses.
So why aren’t more murals made? Well, frankly it’s hard to justify the investment when you have a budget that’s already stretched pretty thin. Unfortunately, “quality of life” initiatives like parks, programming, and public art are often left with whatever budget scraps might be available (and funded in that order). At budget time, it takes several hours of going line by line in the budget to find potential savings from overages in things like office supplies that could be reallocated to accomplish a few small initiatives. Getting volunteers to serve on those boards can be a challenge as well. As is getting donations to fund their efforts.
That’s why when I first went to create our Arts Board a couple of years ago I was told by many people that it wouldn’t work. They were well-intentioned and hard to ignore. I distinctly remember a conversation with another council-member who told me to be careful investing in this because the city had tried groups like this before and they never got enough volunteers to keep it going. A city department head even told me, pretty adamantly, that since donors were donating to so many other city initiatives it would be impossible to raise money for such a “low priority” thing. Both comments were rooted in the truth, but they also didn’t factor in the passion people have for art or the drive to leave a lasting impact on their community.
In the end, the board was created and we’ve been blessed to have had some of the most amazing volunteers in the city serve on it. Those residents changed the city. Not just by bringing art to Madison Heights, but by energizing other city boards and commissions. This impact, culminating in our 1st mural, brought our city statewide recognition, with our board making the final 4 for the Michigan Municipal League’s Community Excellence Awards. The donors came too. Even with having to shut down all of our fundraisers due to the pandemic, Holistic Industries, a new business in the city, stepped in and donated the money for us to fulfill this mural.
Public art matters. Murals like this inspire people and show that creativity is a vital part of the human experience. I’m proud of the work of the Arts Board, artist Jennifer Ramirez, and our generous donors for bringing this spectacular concept to life in our park. Our 2nd mural is coming soon and we couldn’t be more excited to watch it come to life. We’ll be posting when the painting starts so be sure to follow us on Facebook.com/MHArtsBoard for details.