Most residents would agree that community art can be an excellent tool for livening up parking lots or alleyways, but how often is the community involved in the creation of the actual art?
Creative 360, a Midland nonprofit community arts and wellness organization, has made it its mission for the last 25 years to make creativity accessible for all. With its latest grant awarded from the Midland Area Community Foundation Investment Fund, that mission will only be amplified. Receiving a $14,600 grant, under the focus area Enriching Our Community, Creative 360 plans to create a community mural on its grounds at 1517 Bayliss St.
Creative 360 Executive Director Laura Vosejpka says the two entities’ purposes are perfectly in unison. “Our mission, quite simply, is to create an environment for people of all ages, all abilities, to experience the creative process,” Vosejpka says. “We do that a number of different ways — concerts, exhibits, outreach programs. We like to think of ourselves as a place where anyone can experience what it means to be creative. It doesn’t matter what you know, what your ability is, how young you are — we are open to anyone.”
“The Community Foundation is committed to equality and inclusion, and embracing all people. That’s our mission, so it made a lot of sense for us to ask for those funds through that,” she says.
The mural is sponsored by Creative 360, but is truly a team effort — with contributions by community members and project planning by local artists, including students from the Express Yourself Artshop students.
Express Yourself Artshop was created in 2013, designed to provide people with physical, mental, and intellectual disabilities the opportunity for arts education. “It’s a really safe and caring community of teachers, artists, students, and staff who plan projects and classes working at a comfortable pace. Anybody can take Artshop classes. It's not a program specifically for people with challenges, but it’s a really good environment for anyone with challenges to learn art,” she says.
The plan for the mural is to include a theme focused on Creative 360’s core values: inclusiveness, creativity, respect, and community. Featured art pieces will include previously done student work and newly made pieces, as well as connecting pieces chosen by faculty to ensure a cohesive mural. The mural will also include interactive community art, which leaves space for passersby and local residents to add their own little mark on the project. Vosejpka says this “temporary, living-breathing entity” will be in the form of a chalkboard-painted wall.
Plans for the 120-linear-foot mural of 6 panels, running alongside the west edge of the Creative 360 parking lot also include replicated mural designs from the John Pratt Mosaic House, tucked in a wooded lot off Michigan Highway 20 west of Midland. A portion of the $14,600 grant will go toward building, designing, painting, and the mosaic process of these replicated mosaics.
“Our plan is we’ll get that wall up, we’ll plan what the entire thing will look like, and once the weather breaks in the spring, we can immediately start installing that art on the wall,” Vosejpka says.
For Creative 360, creativity is viewed as a journey of discovery, rather than a finished product. For this mural project, the goal is similar — to enjoy the process. Art is often a therapeutic process for those involved, an escape many people could benefit from.
“I would argue that any arts projects are important to a community, and especially times like now — where I think people are struggling to find the beautiful things in life right now; just having beautiful things is important,” Vosejpka says.
Although walking by a beautiful mural is a nice feeling, for Creative 360, it’s inviting the community to truly create the art that’s most important.
“We believe here that it’s the creative process that’s the really beautiful part. That’s the piece that brings joy to the people, that’s the piece that lives on,” she says
In an uncertain time when many people feel divided, and opinions can seem in stark contrast, art often brings people together in an all-encompassing way. “Art doesn’t care what your background is. You don’t have to be a certain person to do art. It doesn’t matter whether you’re young or old, it doesn’t matter what race you are, what religion you are, what gender you are — it doesn’t matter. Art doesn’t care about that,” Vosejpka says.
“The thought that all kinds of people will come together towards this common goal is important. It’s a goal that doesn’t divide people. There are so many things dividing us right now, that we wanted to have something that felt like it was bringing people together instead.”
You can follow the process, and find opportunities on how to participate at becreative360.org.