MADISON HEIGHTS — The Madison Heights Art Board has been building momentum in the community with one head-turning project after another — the most recent being an outdoor mural that spans all four walls of the Jaycee shelter building at Civic Center Park, with imagery that celebrates the power of the imagination.
Wishing to see the resident-led board recognized for its work, Melissa Marsh, the city manager of Madison Heights, nominated the group for the Community Excellence Award, which is awarded through the Michigan Municipal League, or MML.
Community groups from across the state apply for the honor, which will be determined by a mix of public voting and evaluation by a panel of judges. Four finalists will emerge, and the city’s peers will vote on the overall winner at an MML conference this fall.
Those who wish to support the Art Board can do so by voting for it once per day at cea.mml.org/vote by selecting “Madison Heights Visualizes the Future.” Voting ends July 17. The board was in second place in overall voting at press time.
“The energy from this board has spanned all generations of the community and created a desire for more volunteerism in all aspects of our city,” Marsh said. “Because of the mural project that the Art Board set as a goal and worked to achieve, the other boards are also making ambitious goals and starting to develop creative ways to achieve these goals without city-budgeted funds.”
The board, comprising 15 residents, has a goal of creating public art throughout the city, having raised enough money to create the city’s first outdoor mural, and having also directly or indirectly set in motion other initiatives such as tree plantings, beautification projects and more.
Also, the board has organized a pop-up makers market, an art show, a karaoke event, a citywide photo contest — including a calendar that features the winning entries — and a discussion series on women challenging the status quo and breaking into the arts industry, titled “Women in Art — Creative Career Series: ‘Don’t Tell Me What to Do.’”
“This group of volunteers hit the ground running and have created an infectious energy throughout the city, setting the future in motion with their own kind of cool,” Marsh said.
Originally proposed by Mark Bliss, the mayor pro tem of Madison Heights, the board was approved by the Madison Heights City Council in 2017. Bliss said it was in response to feedback from a group of residents during a small town hall meeting that he conducted with the mayor, Brian Hartwell.
The board includes Kymm Clark, chair; Kirstin Bianchi, vice chair; Susan Burcham, treasurer; Amy Misczak, secretary; Bliss himself, as the City Council representative; and student reps from both Lamphere and Madison high schools.
“It’s a great board,” Bliss said. “All of the individual members make an incredible impact and serve on quite a few project committees to keep all of these public events coming.”
The board technically meets “as needed,” but generally once per month at Madison Heights City Hall, 300 W. 13 Mile Road, with meeting dates and times posted on the city’s website, www.madison-heights.org.
While it remains to be seen whether the Art Board will receive the award, Bliss said that to even be this high in the rankings is an award in itself.
He said that with increased visibility comes the possibility that other communities across the state will take note and launch similar initiatives.
“This board has received many well-deserved accolades this year, including council naming them the Group of the Year (at the Madison Heights Community Round Table), but this MML Community Excellence Award is the one I’m most proud of, because it has the ability to inspire other communities to empower their amazing volunteers — like the ones who serve on our Art Board — and create something impactful for the city, despite not having any budgeted city funds to work with,” Bliss said. “This board is amazing, and I’m thrilled that communities across the state will hear about the work that this board has done to bring art into Madison Heights.”