DIA, city to resume adding mural to Utica Fire Department building

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published April 20, 2021

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UTICA — The Utica City Council voted unanimously April 12 to continue a project in which the Detroit Institute of Arts will install a mural on the wall of the Utica Fire Department.

Due to COVID-19, the project had been stalled, but the city would like to resume it.

Utica Mayor Gus Calandrino said that, before the pandemic began, City Councilman Thom Dionne and he had met with DIA representatives and began speaking about the plans for the mural; recently, they reached out again.

“We were at the initial stages of this idea, and then COVID hit. Councilman Dionne and I accompanied some representatives from the DIA to work with the city. We spoke with the business owner of the building they initially had interest in installing the mural on, and I was contacted by the DIA maybe about a month ago about the first time again, and they are interested in getting that project going again,” he said.

At the April 12 City Council meeting, the council members agreed that the project needed to resume after months of holding off.

The mural on the Fire Department is planned to be on the east wall and will be a work of art based off an original piece.

The DIA has agreed to work with the city to install the mural in downtown Utica at no cost to the city.

Megan Hawthorne, the regional public relations manager for the DIA, said that the DIA is working to finalize the artist and the mural that will be part of the project.

“The location of the mural, on the fire station building, has been approved by the city, so the next steps are underway. The museum is now working to finalize the mural’s artist. A community survey was sent out last year asking what Utica residents would like to see in a public art project. The results of that survey will be used by the artist to inform the composition of the mural. Once the artist or artists are confirmed and the composition is finalized, the mural painting will begin,” she said.

Hawthorne said the DIA is looking forward to working with the city on the project.

“The Detroit Institute of Arts looks forward to working with the city of Utica on this project as part of the museum’s Partners in Public Art program. These community art projects are carefully developed in collaboration with each community to provide a lasting work of art that instills community pride and appreciation for the power of creativity,” she said.

Weather permitting, the mural is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2021.

The project was originally planned to be put on Hogs Hollow Smokehouse, but the city decided to move it to the Fire Department.

Calandrino said the drawings for the mural still need to be approved and a lease agreement needs to be made up.

“Unfortunately, I’ve not had any luck reaching out to the business for that original building concept. In talking to the DIA, they actually prefer to move this project to the Fire Department building on the east-facing wall. … Going forward, what I’m looking to do tonight is just to approve the concept and move to the agreement with the DIA. We would still need to do any final proofing of any drawings. They were anticipating putting it on the fire station, and we would also have to work out a lease agreement similar to what we did with the WeatherTech business owner, like when we had the painter Wendy Popko’s mural,” said Calandrino.

Utica City Councilwoman Faith Terenzi said that the Fire Department is a great place for the mural.

“I agree with what the DIA said. I agree that the side of the fire hall is a much better place,” said Terenzi.

Calandrino said he would reach out to the DIA and get the ball rolling.

For more information on the project, call the city at (586) 739-1600.