Downtown Farmington Civic Theater mural honors film icons

Downtown Farmington may not be known as a playground to the stars, but thanks to a newly installed mural on the side of the Civic Theater’s building, locals and visitors may now regularly spot a handful of film icons (including Sidney Poitier, Jimmy Stewart, James Dean, and Veronica Lake) from the parking lot.


How did the mural come about? Earlier this year, Farmington’s Downtown Development Authority solicited artist proposals for a mural that would celebrate the Civic’s upcoming anniversary in 2020. (The suggested theme was “80 Years of Cinema.”)


Plymouth-based artist Adrienne Pickett was one of about a dozen entrants, and after her proposal was chosen, she – with a little help from artist friends Kellie Bambach (from Ann Arbor) and experienced muralist Peter Chavez (from Chicago) – spent four days (and one night) painting the mural onto the Civic.


“I have been a fan of murals and old-fashioned advertising on brick buildings for a long time,” said Scott Freeman, manager of the Civic Theater. “I think the vibrant colors and stylized images of classic movie stars are a great fit for the theater’s wall and for downtown Farmington.”


To hear more about the inspiration for, and installation of, Pickett’s mural, Metromode asked her a few questions.


Q. From your website, it’s clear that you do a broad range of commercial and creative work. Are murals one of your favorite kinds of projects?

A. I do love doing murals. This is the second large scale one I’ve done in the metro Detroit area. … I’ve never looked at it as a major income opportunity. It’s more an artistic outlet, where I get to do something fun.

Q. Are you a film lover? Was that part of the appeal of this particular project?

A. For me, the main appeal was the age of the building – the fact that it’s this historical place that’s 80 years old. It could have been any building. But having said that, there’s something about the Civic that feels very iconic to me. I hung out in Farmington a lot when I was a kid. I grew up in Livonia, … and I went to movies at the Civic with my friends, so it has history for me as well.

Q. How did you come up with the design, and choose specific stars for the mural?

A. Obviously, with a theater that’s been a classic landmark in Farmington for 80 years, it made sense to highlight stars from that era – specifically, Academy Award winners from that time. So they’re actors who graced the screen 80 years ago. … What’s interesting to me is that, during the installation, when we were sitting and taking a break, we heard people trying to guess who the actors were. More often than not, they knew it was Jimmy Stewart and Sidney Poitier. So it’s been cool to hear people engaging with the mural in that way.

Q. The actors are done primarily in black and white, but could you tell me about the colors you used for the backdrop? What guided you, in terms of the palette?

A. We kept the colors simple. … The front of the Civic, the marquee, has golds and reds in it, so I wanted to incorporate some of the colors of the Civic itself back into the parking lot, and tie it all in together.

Q. Could you tell me about the mural installation process?

A. Everyone seems to think it’s this long, drawn-out process, but really, it was just four days from start to finish. … Originally, I was going to do the entire wall, but the boom lift – we found out our construction equipment wouldn’t reach all the way to the right or the left without making me fall out of the bucket, so we needed to scale it down to two-thirds the original size. That was just a technical judgment call we had to make when we saw what we were working with, in terms of the equipment. But we did the background colors first, using exterior house paint and spray paint, and one night, we used a projector with a really strong light, like, 3200 lumens, to project the figures onto the wall and trace it from there, so we could fill them in as we went along.

Q. Did you have a positive experience working in Farmington?

A. Everyone was so welcoming. When you’re in a public space, working on a mural, you never know how people will react. But most of what we heard was, “Hey, that looks amazing.” Some people would come by multiple times a day to see how it was going, and offered encouraging comments. It was good to feel like we were making something that will be part of the downtown scene for a long time.

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