Pandemic sets artist on a ‘mazing’ path

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published August 11, 2020

 Michelle Boggess-Nunley, of Grosse Pointe Woods — who works under her maiden name, Michelle Boggess — tries to create the world’s longest self-drawn maze at Posterity Gallery and Custom Framing in the Village in Grosse Pointe City.

Michelle Boggess-Nunley, of Grosse Pointe Woods — who works under her maiden name, Michelle Boggess — tries to create the world’s longest self-drawn maze at Posterity Gallery and Custom Framing in the Village in Grosse Pointe City.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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GROSSE POINTE CITY — Some people have spent the COVID-19 pandemic searching for toilet paper and disinfecting wipes. Some have been baking banana bread on a regular basis. Michelle Boggess is trying to break a Guinness World Record.

Since the middle of June, Boggess, of Grosse Pointe Woods, has been working on what she hopes will become the new world record for the largest hand-drawn maze. The artist and maze maker has been drawing it on a 2,000-square-foot roll of paper near the front window of Posterity Gallery and Custom Framing in the Village, where passersby can watch her progress and even stop inside to talk to her. Many of the visitors have been immortalized in the maze, as Boggess records their name in it. She welcomes and encourages these visits.

“I really wanted to get the community involved,” Boggess said. “There’s been so much negativity. This is something fun.”

Boggess said she has had a passion for mazes since she was a child. She has created three books of mazes for kids — the third will be available from Amazon by the end of August — and a well-received picture book for young children, “I Am Lenny” — about a llama who doesn’t know he’s a llama — that Boggess said “celebrates differences.”

“I like to write books about diversity,” Boggess said. “I love kids. I love mazes. It’s great to incorporate both of them together.”

A fine artist and art educator, Boggess found herself partially sidelined when COVID-19 hit, as her On the Gogh Studio — mobile art classes she leads for underserved communities — had to be put on hold as community programs were canceled. A mom of two — Mia, 4, and stepson Zeke, 8 — she’s an advocate for youth arts programs, and she learned that the nonprofit Living Arts Detroit, an after-school art program, was struggling to meet its funding needs because of the pandemic.

That’s when she decided to make what she hopes will be a record-breaking maze, with supporters able to sponsor a square footage of maze to raise money for Living Arts Detroit. At press time, Boggess had over 50 sponsors, for whom she’s created special doodles inside the maze; sponsorship opportunities were still available, with complete details on her website.

“The kids are going to need art more than ever” because of the turmoil brought about by the pandemic, Boggess said.

The current world record holder for the longest hand-drawn maze is 1,072 square feet; it was created by Eric Eckert, of New York, over the course of roughly 160 hours throughout a year. Among the requirements Boggess needs to meet: The pathways can’t exceed 1 cm in width, the entire process must be videotaped, and Boggess needs to have two witnesses observing her. Posterity owner Sherry McInerney and Sherry Allor, the art director for Posterity and its neighboring sister store, Next Door Art & Gift Gallery, are serving as the witnesses.

McInerney said Boggess is “so full of creativity and great ideas.”

“Michelle is such a joy to have in our gallery,” McInerney said. “She’s such a giving, compassionate person.”

Boggess serves on the Grosse Pointe Artists Association Board of Directors and has been in many GPAA shows, so Karen Pope, president of the GPAA, is familiar with Boggess and her art.

“I enjoy Michelle’s work because it always tells a story, and as you look at it, you can unwind the story in your mind,” Pope said via email. “It is usually about people, and because of Michelle’s kind, giving nature, the stories are uplifting and joyous.”

Boggess doesn’t know if the doodles inside her maze will count against her total square footage, so she’s trying to exceed the record by several hundred square feet. Her maze will also have been made during a much smaller window of time than Eckert’s — just a couple of months — but she estimates it will take her about 200 hours to finish.

As of the first week in August, Boggess had spent roughly 140 hours on the maze. She anticipates completing it around the end of August or the beginning of September.

“It is totally fitting that she is using her efforts to set a new world’s record to raise money for an after-school program in Detroit,” Pope said by email. “She is proof of how art can enrich lives, and she is always looking for ways to pay it forward. She is always available to give her time and often donates supplies for the Association’s arts programming for kids and senior citizens and their caregivers.”

For more information about the maze and sponsorship opportunities, visit Boggess’ website, www.boggessart.com, and click on the tab, Breaking the World Record.

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