Photo Essay: The Art Of Transformation

Even if you haven't heard of muralist Mary Thiefels you've seen her work many times if you're an Ann Arbor/Ypsi resident. Along with friends she created her first set of murals in 1998, on eight of the railroad underpasses in and around downtown Ann Arbor. In 2002 she received her first commission to create the mural that graces the underpass on North Main Street by the Argo Dam. In 2007 Mary founded TreeTown Murals. 
Thiefels' work is an indelible part of the city's identity, welcoming commuters into town on North Main Street, delighting downtown pedestrians or enticing residents to grab a cup of locally roasted coffee. Her TreeTown Murals work ranges from public art (The Veterans Mural outside the Alley Bar, the mural on the Ann Arbor Art Center, Skyline High School, and the Corner Health Center mural on W Huron in Ypsilanti) to business signs (Eat, Roos Roast) to private residential murals. You can find more of her work in Manchester, Whitmore Lake and Hillsdale. 
Thiefels also teaches painting for Ann Arbor Rec and Ed and leads mural workshops with teens at the Ann Arbor Art Center, inspiring a new generation of mural-minded artists. 
Her latest project is for the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission at Allmendinger Park on Pauline on the city's Old West Side. Titled "Nourishing Healthy Seeds," the mural involves painting, mosaics and found
objects donated by nearby residents to celebrate a neighborhood that lives in the shadow of U of M stadium. The mural also features self-portraits done by eighth graders in Jason Treece's art class at Slauson Middle School.
Explaining her unique approach Mary says, "I wanted this project to reflect its location, history, and importance to the neighborhood, and what better way than to involve those who know it best - the local residents. I am used to having a community participation component in my public work. Most of my work being murals, I usually invite people to help paint in a paint-by-number style. But Allmendinger was different. The site was unique in that it had 3-dimensional columns to incorporate rather than a huge flat wall. When I decided to make the mosaics the focus of this installation, it occurred to me that adding in artifacts from the neighborhood would be the perfect community involvement component."
Thiefels started work on the project in May, and this Sunday, October 28th from 2-4PM "Nourishing Healthy Seeds" will be dedicated at Allmendinger Park at a family friendly event, complete with music, scavenger hunts, food and prizes. 
In our photo essay you get to see most of the process of creating the murals - transporting the mosaics from TreeTown Mural's North Main Street Studio, applying and grouting the mosaics, applying the self-portraits and
painting the columns all undeterred by rain, wind or wild temperature swings. 
The soundtrack is provided by another great Ann Arbor artist - Mayer Hawthorne. Check out his cover of the Isley Brothers' "Work to Do," a tune you won't find on iTunes!

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