Public art competition in Rochester's Lake Norcentra Park opens polls to the public

Local officials, take note. If you want to stir up the passions of the populace, hold a public art competition. That's what BT Irwin is proving in the community of Rochester.

In their efforts to activate Lake Norcentra Park, a 14-acre park located on the Rochester College campus and along the Clinton River Trail, a panel of local artists and city officials have whittled down submissions for a 1,600 sq. ft. mural along the trail to just three finalists. Now, it's up to a public vote to determine which of the murals will be put in place.

BT Irwin, project manager for the Lake Norcentra Park redevelopment, is pleased with the process so far. He says the public art competition has gotten the community involved in reimagining the park, something he expected when first coming up with the idea. Good art will do that, says Irwin.

Community members haven't been shy about approaching Irwin to let him know which mural deserves to be selected for installation. It's out of his hands now, however, and up to the community and the public vote. Over 3,000 votes have been placed since online polls opened just one week ago. For Irwin, it's a can't-lose situation. No matter which piece is selected, Lake Norcentra Park and its surrounding communities benefit.

"What's happening in Lake Norcentra Park is an effort to transform 14 acres of land that's been largely unused for decades," says Irwin. "We want people to claim ownership of the space and make it their own. One way you can do that is through public art."

Lake Norcentra Park is 14 acres and includes bluffs, wetlands, and woodlands throughout its landscape. Rochester College recently partnered with Chief Financial Credit Union to improve the park, which is open to the public. It is located at 800 W. Avon Rd. in Rochester Hills.

Voting is open and available through July 8 at www.rochestermural.org.

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