Mural splashes Pere Marquette Rail Trail with color

Growing up in Midland, artist Joey Salamon drew inspiration from the city’s unique history and architecture. Now the Detroit-based painter is bringing these motifs to life in a new mural project located under the M-20 bridge downtown on the Pere Marquette Rail Trail. 

The extensive artwork features local-themed elements, including references to Midland’s curling club, the Santa House, the Cathy comic, and the mammoth skeleton found nearby in the 1960s. The paintings pay homage to Midland’s recreational opportunities, mid-century modern aesthetic, and roots in chemistry. Images of local wildlife are interspersed throughout.

Creating inspirational public spaces filled with art is part of MACF’s broader goals of enriching the local community.With a mix of figurative and abstract elements, the mural pops with bright colors. Salamon’s signature geometrical patterns in rainbow hues lend dynamic contrast and dimension to the display, accentuating the locally inspired representations. Realistically painted butterflies and fish stand out among finely drafted angles and lines.

“We used a lot of patterns from architectural features around town like Alden B. Dow’s designs and local homes,” says Salamon. “We painted them in interesting ways that are more abstract.” Salamon is joining forces on the project with Phoenix, Arizona artist Cam DeCaussin.

Joey Salamon (left) and Cam DeCaussin (right) stand in front of their mural.Spanning across the faces of two concrete beams supporting the M-20 Traffic Bridge overlooking the walking path, the mural site is in a relatively low-lit site surrounded by water. “The area under the M-20 bridge needs color; it definitely livens up the space,” says Salamon. “Without it, this heavily walked location would look kind of drab.”

Modern paint formulations assure the new mural will be a lasting part of the Midland cityscape for many years to come. The artists have completely painted over the older, faded artwork previously situated on site. Salamon does not foresee a need for refreshing or repainting the artwork in the future.

In recent years, Salamon has painted murals throughout the country, with large projects in Arizona, Florida, Colorado, and all over Michigan.Salamon and DeCaussin applied to paint the mural in response to a request for proposals put out by the Midland Area Community Foundation and Public Arts Midland in fall 2020. The team thought working on the project would be a fun way to revisit Salamon’s Midland heritage and contribute to the local area. 

In recent years, Salamon has painted murals throughout the country, with large projects in Arizona, Florida, Colorado, and all over Michigan. DeCaussin creates mural artwork as well as smaller-scale paintings, also working as an instructor at Arizona State University’s School of Art. The duo previously collaborated on a public mural at the Original ChopShop in Chandler, Arizona. 

Creating a meaningful representation of community

Modern paint formulations assure the new mural will be a lasting part of the Midland cityscape for many years to come.In selecting artists for the project, the Midland Area Community Foundation (MACF) and Public Arts Midland looked for ideas that demonstrated community engagement and connection to the local area. Since the paintings cover columns on two sides of the rail trail, the selected artwork had to be cohesive and work well together from all directions.

“The work of art needed to include significant and meaningful representation of the mid-Michigan community,” says Sharon Mortensen, president and CEO of the MACF. “The artists have pulled in so many elements of the community through the work that they’re doing, and they have worked very hard to call out all of the different things that make Midland a really wonderful and unique community. They have added color to add excitement and energy and brighten up that space in an area where there really isn’t a lot of color and light.”

The MACF and the artists hope people can look at the mural and see themselves in it while also visualizing themselves as part of the community. The project aims for inclusivity, with the design aiming to represent the Midland community as a whole. 

“We know to thrive, people need to feel accepted, feel included, and to feel a sense of belonging,” says Mortensen. “And this artwork is a piece of that.”

Public art is a key component of thriving communities

Creating inspirational public spaces filled with art is part of MACF’s broader goal of enriching the local community. The organization hopes to introduce Midland residents and visitors to the many benefits of experiencing art in the environment on a daily basis.

When encountering art in their surroundings, viewers can gain inspiration, mental health benefits, and a sense of shared purpose. Inclusion of local themes in public art fosters community pride and helps people identify common elements in their lives. 

Salamon and DeCaussin applied to paint the mural in response to a request for proposals put out by the Midland Area Community Foundation and Public Arts Midland in fall 2020.“We really support a vision of our community as an exceptional place where everyone thrives, and we know part of thriving is public art,” explains Mortensen. “Art connects us, it heals us, it inspires us, it teaches us, and it speaks to us. And all of that helps us build stronger, more vibrant communities.” 

The MACF aims to make public art a continuing initiative through collaboration with local organizations. Future programs may incorporate group art sessions as well as opportunities to meet area artists.

For those wanting to delve deeper into the creative process behind the mural, Creative 360 is hosting a question-and-answer session with the artists on Thursday, July 22 at 7 p.m. The creators will describe their background and visual ideas and offer a behind-the-scenes look at mural painting. Additional information can be found at Creative 360’s website

Read more articles by Marta Manning.

Marta Manning was born in Poland and relocated to Midland after living in various cities on the East Coast. A lifelong passion for writing and photography prompted Marta to shift her career trajectory from lab science to freelance journalism. She contributes regular articles on medical topics to WebMD.com and helps business clients write proposals for federal research funding. Her articles have appeared in the Chemical City Paper, Our Catholic Faith Midland, the NAMI.org national blog, and the Midland Daily News.
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