Mural brings fresh look to community center

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published November 1, 2016

 Royal Oak artist Brandon Bullard stands in the hall at the Hazel Park Community Center Oct. 21, pointing out how the lines in his geometric mural match up with the light fixtures and door thresholds. The mural adds some welcome vibrancy to the nondescript building.

Royal Oak artist Brandon Bullard stands in the hall at the Hazel Park Community Center Oct. 21, pointing out how the lines in his geometric mural match up with the light fixtures and door thresholds. The mural adds some welcome vibrancy to the nondescript building.

Photo by Andy Kozlowski

HAZEL PARK — One of the main hallways at the Hazel Park Community Center has been given a dramatic face-lift thanks to the efforts of a talented artist.

What were once drab cinderblock walls outside the main banquet hall are now floor-to-ceiling arrangements of triangles in varying shades of green, blue and beige — official city colors — that perfectly intersect points created by door thresholds, light fixtures and other details.

Brandon Bullard, of Royal Oak, a second-year graduate student in the fiber department at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, spent a couple of weeks painting the walls of the high-ceilinged hallway. But first, he had to take meticulous measurements — an outcropping here, a corner there — and note the exact locations of fixtures so he could follow the existing architecture. Bullard then plotted everything out in a computer-aided design and drafting program.

This collaboration came about after Bullard met Sareen Papakhian, the recreation director of Hazel Park, during an after-hours event for the Michigan Glass Project, which benefits Art Road, a group bringing art classes to underfunded schools in metro Detroit.

“We were just trying to introduce a contemporary, more modern aesthetic in this space,” Bullard said. “We’ve had thoughts about extending this to the rest of the building in the future. But in the meanwhile, I am working on a number of other projects.” 

While the geometric murals add some needed vibrancy to the Hazel Park Community Center, Bullard’s other current and upcoming projects deal with more complex social issues.

Currently, he’s wrapping up a collaborative piece titled “Official Unofficial Voting Station: Voting for All Who Legally Can’t,” installed at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, within the Art as Social Force Exhibition: It’s Your Party in Mike Kelly’s Mobile Homestead, until Jan. 1, 2017. At the center of the exhibit is a ballot box adorned in stars and stripes against an American flag backdrop. Additionally, there is a voting booth located at The Heidelberg Project in Detroit. 

The exhibits give a voice to those who have a stake in the future of the country but who legally can’t vote, including 11 million undocumented immigrants and 5.8 million felony-convicted individuals. They can cast ballots there from Sept. 8 through Election Day Nov. 8, which won’t count in the election but will serve as a symbolic gesture. They can also write feedback for the president-elect.

Along with Bullard’s exhibit, there will be other sites across the nation doing the same thing. Ultimately, all ballots will be sent to the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum for a final tally and exhibit. 

“This is about all of the people who have been disenfranchised and marginalized,” Bullard said. “It’s about hearing their voices.”

Next, Bullard is planning an exhibit called “Code Blue: 50th Anniversary Exhibition of the Detroit Race Riot.” Details are early at this point: A site is still being decided and the exact nature of the project is still evolving. What Bullard will say is that one of the material forms of Code Blue is inspired by one of his previous installations, “1200lbs,” in his studio at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, which featured 1,200 pounds of black clothes meant to explore funeral imagery and other concepts. Expect a very tactile experience that will convey the look and feel of the time, and looping audio testimonials from both sides of the riot, as well as from those sucked into its orbit. 

Bullard has left his mark in other places as well. As a major event organizer, he connected artist groups and businesses for a community event called BAM! (Beauty, Art and Music) through the Fort Collins Museum of Art in Fort Collins, Colorado, in 2007 and 2008. In 2011, he created an installation for Design After Dark, an annual event by the Denver Art Museum. He has numerous works across the United States and Europe, found in businesses, galleries and residences, including two large-scale installations at Mercedes-Benz Financial Services in Farmington Hills.   

Meeting with Bullard and Papakhian at the Hazel Park Recreation Center Oct. 21, Hazel Park City Manager Ed Klobucher said he was thrilled about Bullard’s geometric mural. He said it continues a trend in Hazel Park where artists from inside and outside town leave their mark.

Other examples include Richard Gage’s recent Cadillac Ranch installation next to the law firm of Clark and Schoenbeck on the Interstate 75 service drive; the Art Park on John R Road between Nine Mile and Eight Mile roads; the ArtOber walking tour of local galleries last month; and the annual Art Fair by artist Julie Fournier earlier this fall.

“I really want to thank Brandon for the fantastic artwork he’s given us here,” Klobucher said. “His work has added an element of style and pizazz to the building. It’s become another point of pride for us to talk about.”