Battle Creek

Painting the town: Color the Creek is back

The swish of paintbrushes and the woosh of spray paint bottles will be seen and heard next week throughout Battle Creek as local, regional, and national artists create murals to fill empty surfaces as part of the annual “Color the Creek” festivities which begin on Monday and conclude on Aug. 20 with a Block Party at Café Rica.
Up to 10 large murals by local, regional, and national artists will be painted throughout the week, says Justin Andert, Founder and Head Organizer of the annual event that began in 2016. He says bus stops, billboards and bus ads across Battle Creek also will feature local and regional artwork throughout the festival.
During the first Color the Creek, three murals were created in downtown Battle Creek.
“Now we have more than 50 pieces of public art. We have 40 murals scattered around the city in different neighborhoods and a Black Lives Matter mural with 16 pieces of art on one wall,” Andert says.
The Black Lives Matter mural, located near the intersection of Dickman Road and Riverside Drive was created in June, 2020. Two months after its completion it was vandalized and quickly restored back to its original state by local artists and community volunteers.
One of 16 smaller murals that are part of a Black Lives Matter mural located near the corner of Dickman Road and Riverside Drive.Andert says the restoration effort speaks to the support Color the Creek has from the community. Since its inception, the festival annually has hosted more than a dozen community events that have brought together over 10,000 people and 500 youth to celebrate Battle Creek, according to a press release.
“For me Color the Creek and the art that is created creates this identity and vibrancy for Battle Creek and shows the high level of support here for the arts,” he says. “It really improves the quality of life around the community and brightens the urban landscape having splashes of color and murals that really resonate with people. It makes a difference in how someone views our community or parts of the community.”
Although, he says, “There really isn’t great data or metrics to show the impact, we have some artists now who were inspired by the original artists, especially those who come in from outside of town. We are creating this really positive connotation around Battle Creek and showing spaces that are cared for and there’s symbolism in that.”
Of particular importance to Andert is ensuring that there is representation for People of Color and young people who want to be a part of the festival and showcase their creativity.

As part of this effort, Color the Creek is partnering with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), to host its annual Youth Day from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Aug. 17 in Mill Race Park. With the help of local artists, youth will have the opportunity to learn about spray paint art and create their own masterpieces. Youth Day will also feature a flower crown building station, the opportunity to participate in painting a mural on the local “The Creek” sculpture, a sticker drawing table, and the opportunity to meet local artist, Jamari Taylor.
A mural in downtown Battle Creek created for a previous Color the Creek event.“Our vision is to inspire a new generation of young people,” Andert says.
Taylor, who was born and raised in Battle Creek, was commissioned by the WKKF to create a mural on a new banner for its headquarters, located across the street from Mill Race Park. It will be unveiled at 11:25 a.m. Aug. 17. The mural featured on the banner represents every child thriving.
“At the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, children are at the heart of everything we do,” Director of Michigan programs for WKKF Faye Alexander Nelson, says in a press release. “And we know that for children to thrive, their communities need to be vibrant and equitable places of opportunity. We have been proud to support our hometown community since we were founded 92 years ago, and are happy to support Color the Creek as it elevates the voices and perspectives of people across our hometown.”
In addition to numerous events throughout the week, there will be an Art Hop on Aug. 19 that features a chalk art exhibition sponsored by Plumeria Botanical Boutique; po-up artists at BC Cargo; and a disc golf event along the Linear Trail sponsored by Handmap Brewing.
A mural located on the side of the BC Pride Resource Center, at 104 Calhoun Street.Andert, who works for Northern Initiatives in Battle Creek in their Entrepreneurship Training Programs, says he never knew how much of an impact Color the Creek would have when he came up with the idea six years ago. But he saw the impact public art made in Minneapolis, Minn., where he lived for six years after graduating in 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Western Michigan University.
“When I moved back to Battle Creek, I was excited to do something like that here,” he says.


Read more articles by Jane Parikh.

Jane Parikh is a freelance reporter and writer with more than 20 years of experience and also is the owner of In So Many Words based in Battle Creek. She is the Project Editor for On the Ground Battle Creek.