Paint Midland red: “Support Local Art” festivals coming in June

Why have gray buildings when you can have rainbow buildings? 

Coming to Midland June 5-6 is a weekend filled with mural painting, live music, and poetry and plays. Art Seen Festival, a mural painting event bent on beautifying buildings and building community, makes its debut this year.

Jenni Bush is the Art Seen Festival Chair.Inspired by Bright Walls in Jackson, Michigan, Jenni Bush, the Art Seen Festival Chair, sought to bring a similar concept to Midland. To make it happen, Bush connected with Alysia Christy at the Midland Area Community Foundation (MACF). Christy happily incorporated Art Seen into Public Arts Midland, an initiative of MACF born over five years ago from the need for more public art.

“[Public art is] something that anyone can come and see and be a part of. … It can invoke an emotion, or a feeling, or maybe a memory,” says Bush. “... It makes art accessible to absolutely everyone, no matter your demographic, how much you earn — it doesn’t matter. Everybody can come and look at this and it can mean something.”

The mural for Art Seen will be painted on the wall behind Little Forks Outfitters in downtown Midland, accessible off of McDonald Street, between Main Street and Larkin Street. The public is invited to watch local artist Jazzmyn Benitez and Dacia Parker’s team at Parker Lane Art & Design Studios paint the mural of a fox, symbolizing resilience and curiosity. 

“That’s how I see public art — it’s something that inspires and brings people together,” says Bush.

Anyone is welcome to join in on painting a section of the wall. Participants will be asked to wear masks and use hand sanitizer provided on-site. Local musicians will also be performing in the evening. The festival will take place in downtown’s social district, so festival attendees may enjoy the painting process and live music with a drink. 

Jazzmyn Benitez inside Parker Lane Design Studio.Midland businesses are encouraged to offer products or services tied to the brand of Art Seen. Bush wants to draw people into the event and increase traffic to businesses, but not to inconvenience owners.

“The past year has been really hard and we want to make sure we’re actively trying to get people to not only stop at Art Seen, but also to grab a beverage, grab a pizza, grab a sandwich — whatever the case is.,” says Bush. “… However we can get people in is what we want to do.”

Next year, Bush plans on growing Art Seen to three murals, rather than just the one. Artists in the Great Lakes Bay Region will be given priority in the application process, but all artists are welcome.

“If there’s a really talented artist that’s interested, we’re all about it,” says Bush. “We want to really build a sense of community and connection through these murals. It’s more than just a painting — it’s something that we can really be proud of and something that people can see and take away something [from].”

While the painting is downtown this year, Bush hopes to see future murals branch out to other sections of Midland.

“We really see this as something that can build and connect community, and that’s all part of the community, right? It could be downtown, midtown, center city — it could be over by the mall area,” says Bush. “It’s one of those things where we don’t really have a lot of borders on it, but what we want to do is have it throughout the community. We’ll be looking for that next year.”

Connect with Art Seen and Public Arts Midland on social media for updates, contests, and giveaways. 

Let the festivities continue!

Art Seen is sharing its inaugural weekend with a few other “Support Local Art” events, featuring activities like poetry, plays, food, music, and more painting. 

“We really tried to build a conscious event in the sense of being mindful that we all have things going and that we’re all supporting art locally,” says Bush, “and we want to make sure that people go to each one and see what Midland has to offer for that.”

The flyer for "Support Local Art" provides an overview of each festival with their schedules.Mural Blast, led by Eric Larson, will take place on a section of Main Street, which will be closed for vehicle traffic. Seven teams of Michigan artists will be painting murals on 8-by-12-foot boards on Saturday, June 5. Every hour during the live painting event, kids will be welcome to participate in an art battle. The finished murals will remain on display on Main Street the following day. After that, they will be rotated between Saginaw, Bay City, and Midland. 

Also happening downtown near the Courthouse and H Hotel will be the Midland Center for the Arts’ Summer Art Fair. There will be food, artist’s booths, music by local musicians, activities for kids, and Museum School faculty demonstrations. This event is a fundraiser supporting programs year-round in the museum.

Down the road on Bayliss Street, Creative 360 is holding two events: a community mural — which the public is invited to contribute to — and Art Speaks Festival

“It’s not fully set, but what we’re trying to do is get [last year’s Mural Blast murals] so they connect the downtown with Creative 360 and make a path,” says Bush. “There’s a great little park walkway and it’s termed the ‘Love Path’ that goes from the Loons down toward Bayliss.”

Bush is most excited for the festival to bring the community back together for a safe, outdoor event. 

“It is building a sense of community; it is placemaking at its absolute finest,” says Bush. “It’s something that we can all come in together and all build this connection, and that’s really important. The community is working to create a better space — that’s what it’s all about.”

Read more articles by Crystal Gwizdala.

Crystal Gwizdala is a freelance writer with a focus on health and science. As a lifelong resident of the Tri-Cities, she loves sharing how our communities are overcoming challenges. Crystal is also a serial hobbyist — her interests range from hiking or drawing to figuring out how to do a handstand. Her work can be seen in Wide Open Eats, The Xylom, Woman & Home, and The Detroit Free Press. To see what Crystal’s up to, you can follow her on Twitter @CrystalGwizdala.