EastpointeJuly 24, 2012
Mural completed at Eastpointe Memorial Library
By Sara Kandel
C & G Staff Writer
EASTPOINTE — His work can be seen all over Michigan, from Hamtramck to Mackinaw, and his latest project is right in the backyard of Eastpointe residents.
After two years of sporadic work on it, muralist Dennis Orlowski recently finished his piece at the Eastpointe Memorial Library.
The Friends of the Library hosted a dedication ceremony upon the mural’s completion to honor and thank him — Orlowski only charged them for supplies, donating his time and skill.
He spoke at the event on July 17 to a crowd of a few dozen onlookers.
“It’s always nice to be honored with people around, especially for an artist, because us artists have these big egos,” Orlowski joked.
“I learned early on that I was a public artist. What does that mean? It means that you do it, your art, for someone else. Eastpointe is famous for the people living here, the community, so I wanted that to be part of what I painted.”
Orlowski said he included an image of the city’s famed old schoolhouse and another of a typical ranch-style Eastpointe home to show a sense of place, but the real imagery and message of his work comes from the girl reading in the foreground.
“A girl reading shows safety and civilization; it embodies the community town that is Eastpointe,” he explained.
He said he doesn’t like to paint from photographs. He sketches from real life and does his mural based on his sketches. The girl pictured is an actual patron of the library.
Kate Sumner posed next to Orlowski for pictures in front of the mural, but only people looking closely enough at a few key details could tell she was the girl painted on the wall.
Orlowski joked that her hair was different then — darker in color and straight — but he also admitted to changing her skin color. He used a subdued golden hue for her skin. He explained that it was so that her image would represent the entire Eastpointe community.
“Like Bart Simpson — I wanted to paint her so no one could tell if she were black or white, any color or nationality,” he said. “When you paint a mural, you have to paint for everyone.”
For library regulars like Sumner, staff and the Friends group, the completion of the mural was a long time coming.
“I’m so happy the mural is finally here,” said Councilwoman Wendy Richardson, who sat on the library board last year. “It was the topic of conversation for the entire time I sat on the library board. It has been a project of love from the Friends of the Library.”
Mayor Suzanne Pixley mentioned that it was something they were even talking about when she sat on the board six years ago.
It wasn’t until two years ago, though, that the Friends teamed up with Orlowski, and the mural started becoming a reality.
Only able to work on the mural in the warmer summer months, Orlowski hoped to have it finished last summer, but shortly after he began sketching it out, he was called away for a paying gig. He finished the project in the height of the heat wave this summer.
He said he didn’t mind donating his time for the project because he is a strong supporter of libraries in general, and he loves the community-centered feel of Eastpointe.
“During the Renaissance, beautiful murals were created in churches depicting the best of men. To me, libraries, in some ways, are like modern churches. When you go into one, you act different, you behave, and they provide an amazing access to knowledge. You can get a lot of positive things from spending time at the library.”
“I feel good about people and life, and I feel like the people here do, too. During the Renaissance these murals showed the best of man, the dignity of man. Back then, people believed in that — the dignity of man. People don’t so much believe in that anymore. Some people do. I think there are a lot of people who do here. That’s why I wanted to do this mural for the library that would show the presence of the whole community.”
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