Mural at Sunflour Bakehaus Celebrates Farmington’s Diversity
(Lara Mossa, Oct. 10, 2020)
Farmington, MI – “It’s a Small Town After All.” The mural depicts diversity amid a cluster of buildings and bright sunflowers. Located on the west wall of the Sunflour Bakehaus in Downtown Farmington, Mary Lou Stropoli painted the 12-by 22-foot picture.
“I like that it captures the spirit of our city, and the color palette was meant to bring joy during the summer of 2020,” said the Farmington Hills-based artist.
Stropoli started working on the painting August 7 and completed it in September. She designed the picture in the inspiration of Mary Blair’s work – a designer of the “It’s a Small World” display at Disney. Stropoli created whimsical buildings and images of children under a vibrant blue sky and colorful sun.
The project is one of several murals being done in downtown Farmington. The Farmington Downtown Development Authority received a grant for the artwork.
“I think that, especially in a time like right now, it gives people hope,” said Cathi Waun, a member of the DDA Public Art Committee. “It gives them a reason to come downtown even though we’re in a situation where we’re social distancing…It adds some vibrancy to the community.”
Waun, who is broker/owner of City Life Realty in Farmington, applied for the grant from the National Association of Realtors. In May, the city received $5,000 and then an additional $500 from the Southfield-based Greater Metropolitan Association of Realtors.
While Stropoli worked on designs for her mural, a similar project is planned for the side of the KickstART building located across from Sunflour Bakehaus. With an alley separating the two, Waun envisions an art area that could include artist booths, classes and performances, she said. While the artist and sketches have already been picked for the KickstART building, the project was delayed and could not be completed before the cold weather.
The murals are just two examples of Downtown Farmington’s efforts to engage the community and bring art into the downtown, Waun explained. Led by DDA Executive Director Kate Knight, the city created a public art blueprint a couple of years ago, she added.
Part of the reason the DDA chose Sunflour Bakehaus is because the 90-year-old business already has murals inside the store.
“We’re just grateful that the community comes out and supports public art. And all this money was raised to put the murals on these walls. And that the DDA executive director is a proponent of public art,” said Becky Burns, who co-owns the business with her husband Jeff Pavlik.”
And of course they are grateful for the mural, and pleased with the finished product.
“We just love Mary Lou,” Burns said. “She’s local. She used to own a business in town. She taught our kids art out of her home. And she’s a wonderful artist.”
The buildings in the mural represent structures in Downtown Farmington, and the children in the painting provide diverse imagery. A trio of children plays music, while another pair make art. A group in the center has a feast of cookies, breads, and other bakery sweets. In one spot two girls enjoy sandwiches at little blue table with red tulips. There is even a child in a face mask to memorialize the collective experience of 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic.
“What Mary Lou did was so incredible,” Burns said. “It’s so community-centered. She grew up in the community…You can tell the connection the artist has to the community just by looking at the mural.”
Stropoli, who has been an instructor for 20 years, teaches art at Brother Rice High School in Bloomfield Hills. She earned a bachelor’s degree in fine art from the University of Michigan. She and her husband, Ronald Stropoli, have two children. A professional artist, she has done murals in the past and has an art show coming up at the KickstART gallery in November.
“I love the color you can explore in painting, and when you’re in the zone, you’re transported to a place of zen,” Stropoli said of her craft. “It was the thrill of a lifetime. This was my hometown and to create a mural that represents my town is a dream come true.”
The Sunflour Bakehaus is located east of Farmington Road on the north side of Grand River Avenue.
“I know that it’s bringing a lot of joy to a lot of people,” Burns said of the project. “We’ve had a lot of customers who are so grateful for this bright spot in an uncertain time.”
KickSTART Farmingtong, Stropoli profile
Farmington Voice story about the mural