Community picks up brushes, transforms overpass near Potter Park Zoo

While the name of her business implies she works small, Tracie Davis' recent string of artistic projects reveal she often takes things to a larger scale.

As the artist behind St. Johns' Whimsical pARTy Gallery and Tiny By Design, Davis has a penchant for children's artwork and murals that involve entire communities in the creative process.

"You can bring in people to see artwork, but when they get a hand in it, they take pride," says Davis. "People want to do things in their neighborhood and to improve things."

Murals, she says, are a fun and ideal way to get people involved.

In late October, Davis partnered with fellow artist Diane Harte to organize the beautification of the Pennsylvania Avenue railroad overpass near Potter Park Zoo. Sponsored by LEAP's Engage Placemaking Pilot Program, Davis and Harte invited community members, schools and neighborhood groups to pick up a paintbrush and contribute to a paint-by-number mural of zoo animals.

In a weekend and a few days, the #Penn4People project had transformed the gray confines from an overgrown, dank weed patch to a tidy, bright environment for paintings of 19 animals. With eight sections in total, the mural features a moose, eagle, two otters, and a snow leopard, among others. Plans are to paint more animals into the menagerie after a solid "canvas" of brightly colored paint cures.

Davis drew the designs in her studio then mapped the images onto the undersides of the overpass. Numbers were assigned to particular areas and coordinated with a palette of primary colors. Participating painters were given a brush and a two-ounce cup of an individual color, then directed to paint areas that matched their choice.

"Some people painted a dozen, some painted one or two," says Davis. "It was up to them."

Four groups from the Southside were involved in the painting including the Holmes Street School Community and the Potter-Walsh, Clifford Park and Scott Woods neighborhoods. Other volunteers and students from Mount Hope STEAM school were big contributors.

Davis says the project is completed for the time being but that she and volunteers may come back in the spring to do touch up and add details. She says she feels great about the results and was excited to see her design come to life in such a short period of time.

"I hope it inspires communities to come together and work tog to make their neighborhoods safe, happy places to live, and to bring more art and culture to their community," she says. "Our goal was to make a bridge that brings people together, rather than a barrier that separates them."

The community mural is the third project in the LEAP's Engage Placemaking Project. Since August 2017, the initiative has advanced placemaking projects identified by residents and community leaders, with projects-to-date including the installation of original artwork by Lansing-based artists on the Lansing Rivertrail and painted pianos to downtown Charlotte.

Source: Tracie Davis, Owner, Tiny by Design
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

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