Ypsi nonprofit to celebrate 40th anniversary with unveiling of community mural project

As Ypsilanti Township nonprofit Friends In Deed celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, the organization invited community members to help design a new mural for its building at 1196 Ecorse Rd.

Formed in 1982 and formally incorporated in 1983, Friends In Deed provides resources including free furniture, assistance with transportation and utility costs, and more to low- to moderate-income Washtenaw County families. The nonprofit's Circles program pairs low-income "leaders" with higher-income "allies" to help the leaders lift themselves out of poverty. 

Earlier this year, the nonprofit invited local artists, board members, clients, and other stakeholders to create vision boards that would inspire a mural. The call for art produced more than 50 works of art, which are on display at the Ypsilanti District Library's Whittaker branch, 5577 Whittaker Rd. in Ypsilanti Township, through Tuesday, Sept. 13. 

"We asked them to create a piece of art that said what Friends In Deed means to them," says Friends In Deed executive director Sarah Thornburg. "Then Mary [Thiefels] at TreeTown Murals created our mural from them. It's not an agglomeration, but the messages those vision boards communicated inspired the design."

In addition to the display of vision boards at the YDL, Friends In Deed also hosted a community paint day Sept. 10. TreeTown Murals artists Thiefels and Danijel Matanic created the mural with a unique paint-by-number technique, and community members filled in the outlines. 

Thornburg says the "rudimentary" work on the mural is done. An artist from TreeTown Murals will then come in to blend and fine-tune the finished product, and then seal it for protection from the weather.

Thornburg notes that Friends In Deed has also made some other recent upgrades including a new paint job for its building. That update is a nod to Ypsilanti Township's master plan, which calls for revitalization of the Ecorse Road business corridor.

"We love being on Ecorse, because first of all, there's delicious ice cream in walking distance," Thornburg says. "Our end of Ecorse is not in its heyday. It's true. But if the township's plan is to come to fruition in the next few years, we want to be a part of that."

She says the new bright blue paint and mural "brings life" to Friends In Deed's building, which Thornburg calls "nondescript" before its makeover.

"We can't all rely on the [Carry Dairy statue] cow to be the one thing people know of when you say you're on Ecorse," she says. "We're excited to have this mural go up."

The community is invited to the formal unveiling of the mural from 5-7 p.m. Sept. 23. The event will include refreshments, music, and children's activities. 

More information about the community mural project is available here.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.

Mural photo by Sarah Rigg. All other photos courtesy of Friends In Deed.
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