Artist Wendy Popko presents the plan for the completed version of her mural, “The Rainbow Maker,” as she stands before the actual work in progress at the Eastpointe Children’s Garden.

Artist Wendy Popko presents the plan for the completed version of her mural, “The Rainbow Maker,” as she stands before the actual work in progress at the Eastpointe Children’s Garden.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


DIA mural going up in Eastpointe

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published September 3, 2020

 Popko wants to highlight themes of diversity, hope and community pride in her work.

Popko wants to highlight themes of diversity, hope and community pride in her work.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 The Detroit Institute of Arts is funding art projects through its Partners in Public Art program.

The Detroit Institute of Arts is funding art projects through its Partners in Public Art program.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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EASTPOINTE — Eastpointe’s Children’s Garden will soon be home to one of several murals going up around the metro Detroit area sponsored by the Detroit Institute of Arts.

The murals are part of the DIA’s Partners in Public Art program. The mural’s artist, Wendy Popko, said this is one of the ways the DIA gives back to the community.

“What they do is they take the tax funds from the tri-county area and that allows residents to attend the DIA for free,” she said. “What most people don’t realize is that they give back in other ways as well by selecting communities and commissioning artists to create an art piece for them. It could be a sculpture or, like in my case, a mural.”

The Eastpointe mural is going in at the Children’s Garden located at Gratiot Avenue and Stephens Road on the side of the Eastpointe Community Credit Union, which is a partner in the project.

“I think it’s wonderful, and I’m so proud of them doing the mural on our wall,” said Theresa Hing, CEO of the credit union and a member of the Eastpointe Downtown Development Authority. “(Several) classes of kids planted the original plants and flowers in the Children’s Garden (in 2005) and I was able to help out with that. It’s gotten a bit overgrown so we recently pulled out some weeds and made sure Wendy could come in and do her mural. We want the children and parents of the community involved, so kids from Eastpointe will be coming out to paint some rocks and help out on the project.”

The project began with the DIA working with the Eastpointe Arts and Cultural Diversity Commission. Alysa Diebolt, the chair of the commission, said they were eager to expand their relationship with the DIA and bring another piece of public art to the community.

“The arts commission had been working with the DIA for community events, and we had been talking with them, and the Partners in Public Art program is something else that they do,” said Diebolt. “We had already had that working relationship, and we had eager community members, including Theresa at the bank, so we had enough people come to the table at the same time to talk to the DIA and make this happen.”

The design for the mural was created with feedback from the Eastpointe community.

“We’re really, really excited about it. The design that was chosen was called ‘The Rainbow Maker’ and it’s just awesome,” Diebolt remarked. “Wendy Popko, the artist, took tons of survey responses from residents and found the common threads, and the main thread she found was diversity, so I’m glad we can highlight diversity in this way.”

“It shows a machine making rainbows, sort of inspired by toffee making machines, and kids are the ones operating it,” added Popko. “Each gear could represent a different flower from a country or area people come from, and done in the style of art from those places as well.”

Popko also said she tried to add as much of what made Eastpointe unique to the mural as well.

“Highlighting other aspects such as the Gratiot Cruise also were important. I’m a gearhead, so I was excited about that,” she said. “Eastpointe actually has three recording studios, so I thought putting the music in would be good as well. “

She said she sees it as a piece of art reflecting the time of its creation, and wanted to highlight aspects of the current day such as overcoming challenges such as COVID-19

“I was trying to come up with an idea over several weeks for the overarching themes, and as I was, I came across a Facebook page called Rainbows Over Michigan, which was encouraging people during the quarantine. I really loved the idea and I thought, ‘We are in a storm,’ and that kids are experiencing it the most, since adults could at least venture out to get groceries and things, but kids just had their lives screech to a halt,” Popko said. “I wanted them to know they can endure this, and life goes on. I wanted that symbol of hope in the mural.”

She also said she hopes this project will bring hope to people facing hard times.

“I’m really excited to be a part of a community project in Eastpointe. This is my fourth public art piece, and every community I’ve worked in, I’ve worked in Sterling Heights, Utica, and Mount Clemens, and I have had a wonderful experience as an artist in each,” said Popko. “2020 has been unkind, and it has affected everyone. It’s been heartbreaking. I want this art piece to represent the pride that Eastpointe has in its residents and bring hope during a time of uncertainty in our world today.”

Popko will also be getting a hand from some local youths.

“Normally the DIA has it so the residents can participate. This was something important to the DIA,” she said. “When the quarantine came, it became clear that kids couldn’t be out there sharing paintbrushes and so forth. Theresa at the credit union thought that maybe we could have these rocks where the kids can buy the rocks, paint them to look like gears to represent them or their culture, and then return them so we can place them in front of the mural.”

More information on when and where the rocks can be obtained can be found on the Arts and Cultural Diversity Commission Facebook page.

The mural is expected to be completed by mid-October and an unveiling event is being planned by the Arts and Cultural Diversity Commission.

“The city has been wonderful with helping out and the arts commission and DIA have been too,” said Hing. “It’s been a great collaboration as a community. We’ll have some new plants going in as well, (in addition to) some steppingstones by the mural. The city of Eastpointe sometimes gets a bad rap, so we want to get the good things out there.”

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