A reproduction of a Tiled Niche from 1848-1888 by Iranian Master Muhammad Husayn hangs in the Vicant Building  in Mount Clemens.

A reproduction of a Tiled Niche from 1848-1888 by Iranian Master Muhammad Husayn hangs in the Vicant Building in Mount Clemens.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

Making Mount Clemens an Art City

By: Kristyne E. Demske | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published February 28, 2020


MOUNT CLEMENS — Organizers are hoping that a new downtown installation of reproductions from the Detroit Institute of Arts will help Mount Clemens residents fall in love with art.

Representatives from the DIA worked with the Mount Clemens Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the Macomb Cultural and Economic Partnership (MCEP) to create a walking trail of art in the windows of vacant and populated storefronts downtown for residents and visitors to enjoy.

Most of the artwork is visible from the street, 24 hours a day, but a few are inside buildings that may have different hours.

“A lot of people don’t look at art as being a driver of economic development, and I think art, among its many attributes, can be part of an economic development plan,” said Ed Bruley, secretary of the board of directors for the MCEP.

He said the project has been in the works for at least nine months and that it’s a good fit for the city of Mount Clemens because of the Anton Art Center and also the efforts to get an ArtSpace live/work development in the city.

The MCEP’s sculpture program showed that art can be a driver of economic activity, he said, when hosts of the sculptures asked to purchase them at the end of the year and made plans for a development to show them off.

“We saw people’s attitudes change to (be) more positive about their neighborhood and public participation,” Bruley said. “We want to bring a sense of pride and excitement to an area that needs and deserves pumping up, and art can play a great role in that.”

As a member of the Macomb County Arts Board, Bruley said he was able to work with the DIA to bring the project to the community.

“It’s not just getting the community to go to the DIA, but it’s getting the DIA to go to the community and take all of the wonderful things they have and make it part of the culture of the local community. This is just a first attempt at seeing if we can do that,” he said.

The groups worked with landlords to get access to storefronts and office buildings where they could install 38 reproductions of artwork on Feb. 14 and 17, which are full scale or larger than the actual artwork hanging in the DIA.

Places like Gus’ Coney Island, the hallway of the Vicant Building and even CVS will sport pieces of art now through October.

“The DIA has done this as community outreach and we’re very thankful for it,” said Steven Staph, of the Mount Clemens DDA.

The DDA says that the installation is part of an ongoing program to create Mount Clemens as an Art City, with the reproductions on North Main, Walnut, Cherry and Macomb streets complementing the 12 sculptures placed by the MCEP in the south end of the city, and murals from the Anton Art Center that were painted in public spaces in the summer of 2019.

“This is a special community partnership,” said Ian Rapnicki, community engagement manager with the DIA for Macomb County.

One of the DIA reproductions is also being installed inside the Anton Art Center, he said.

“Many of the installation sites are vacant,” he said. “One of the initial catalysts of this was to put art in these vacant spaces (to) beautify downtown.”

While the Art City installation is separate from the Inside|Out program the DIA installs across metro Detroit, Rapnicki said that the artwork comes from the same pool of images. Also, both programs are paid for through the 0.2-mill DIA millage passed by voters in 2012.

“It falls into the category of the community partnership program,” he said. “We do this in service of our existing millage agreements. We’re making sure we reinvest the money in the ways they (local communities) want.”

The DIA is paying for the reproductions and the installation of the art, while the DDA has paid for all of the windows to be washed and kept clean during the course of the installation.

While organizers haven’t set a grand opening date, they plan to offer a walking map, as well as digital resources and signage to help visitors find the artwork as they meander around downtown.

“It’s to give that bit of inspiration and that belief that we can turn this around. We can make the place, on a continuing basis, to be as wonderful as it can be,” Bruley said.