Art Seen Festival invites community for mural-making fun

They make you stop in your tracks. Perhaps you take out your cellphone to snap a quick photo. Sometimes, you even plan a trip to visit one. Murals. They’re larger-than-life and crucial in placemaking for many downtown districts, including Midland. The third annual event, Art Seen Festival, celebrates mural-making and invites the community to grab a paintbrush and participate too. The free festival features a community mural, a commissioned mural, and live music, from June 3-4 in downtown Midland. 

Art Seen Festival happens in downtown MIdland, June 3-4.
Annie Stout, communications chair for the Art Seen Festival Committee, says the festival’s goal is to make art accessible to everyone, “We love the idea of people coming together, connecting, and being a part of the art-making experience. We want these experiences to connect and to be a part of what’s happening in the community, and have these murals be touchpoints. Kids coming out to help on these later can come back and say, ‘oh, I was part of that.’”

The goal is to beautify the town, but to also provide residents with an opportunity to participate, rather than just view art from a distance in a gallery. The event also features live music, presented by The Blue Light Music Venue. “It’s really fun because the stage is usually set up by the community mural or one of the murals, so there’s still artists in the background, painting on the wall while the music is going on. It’s a very multidimensional experience,” Stout says. 
“We love the idea of people coming together, connecting, and being a part of the art-making experience..."
Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the community is invited to leave their mark on the mural at the Little Forks Outfitters site, on McDonald Street, between E. Main Street and E. Larkin. All ages and abilities are welcome, says Stout. In previous years, murals were completed near Ace Hardware, and behind Little Forks. The 2023 festival will add to those.

“It’s a 90-foot wall, and we’ve done two of the sections. We’ll be completing it this year, with the help of the community,” Stout says. “We have artists of all ages and abilities, and we try to make it as accessible as possible. We’ve had seniors come paint with us, and we’ll put a folding chair by the wall so they can have a seat and participate. We’ve had toddlers painting on the wall too. When the artists design these community murals, they do it thoughtfully in a way that everyone can participate.”

The event also brings a professional mural artist, Kevin Burdick to town, for his mural at UpBeat Music Academy on E. Ashman Street. Stout says the Art Seen Festival Committee received over 300 artist submissions from all over the country, before choosing the Michigan native. “We were shocked and impressed at all of the portfolios that came through,” she says. Stout says Burdick’s design will be a surprise for visitors, but his work often utilizes abstract, realism, and mixes historical elements with aspects of street art. 

Other participating artists include Selena Bender, who completed a utility box mini mural at Townsend and Main downtown, Jazz Benitez, and Dacia Livingston parker. The event is sponsored by Ace Hardware, The Downtown Development Authority, Dow Credit Union, Patricia & David Kepler Foundation, Members First Credit Union, UpBeat Music Academy, Hantz Financial Services, and more. 

The goal is to not only beautify the town, but to also provide residents with an opportunity to participate, rather than just view art from a distance in a gallery.
Stout hopes this year’s event can add to the downtown area’s character by creating memories for years to come. 

“Murals are a huge part of placemaking. It’s a whole other level of that when you’re letting the community be a part of the painting process,” she says. “It’s been really fun to see people interacting with them. It’s really a connection point for people to take pride in their town, and share what they’ve been a part of. It’s creating conversations, getting people outside, and hopefully encouraging them to shop in that area, and increasing business to the downtown district too.”

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Sarah Spohn.

Sarah Spohn is a Lansing native, but every day finds a new interesting person, place, or thing in towns all over Michigan, leaving her truly smitten with the mitten. She received her degrees in journalism and professional communications and provides coverage for various publications locally, regionally, and nationally — writing stories on small businesses, arts and culture, dining, community, and anything Michigan-made. You can find her in a record shop, a local concert, or eating one too many desserts at a bakery. If by chance, she’s not at any of those places, you can contact her at