The city’s first outdoor mural — “The Power of Imagination,” by Jennifer Ramirez — was painted onto all four walls of the shelter building at Civic Center Park in 2019.

The city’s first outdoor mural — “The Power of Imagination,” by Jennifer Ramirez — was painted onto all four walls of the shelter building at Civic Center Park in 2019.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Painting begins on library mural

Next mural planned for shelter building at Huffman Park

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published October 4, 2021


MADISON HEIGHTS — Even more outdoor murals are coming to Madison Heights.

In 2019, local artist Jennifer Ramirez turned the shelter building at Civic Center Park into a vibrant outdoor mural titled “The Power of Imagination,” and in 2020, she did it again, adorning the concession stand at Rosie’s Park with a wilderness-themed piece called “Nature’s Repose.”

The first mural garnered statewide attention, landing Madison Heights in the final four of the Michigan Municipal League’s Community Excellence Award. Buoyed by that success, the city is now adding a third outdoor mural — this time to the facade of the Madison Heights Public Library. And a fourth mural is also planned for the shelter building at Huffman Park, sometime next year, although an artist has not yet been selected.   

For the library mural, the Madison Heights Arts Board put out a call for artists in early September and chose Amanda Trotto, who has a studio art degree from Oakland University and can be found online by her Instagram handle, @amandatrottoart.

At press time, painting was already underway at the library, located near the corner of 13 Mile and John R roads. As for the mural at Huffman Park, on Cowan Avenue south of 11 Mile Road on the west side of John R Road, the Arts Board will reopen the call for artists this spring.

“Once completed, all of the park buildings will have murals,” said Amber Platzke, the chair of the Madison Heights Arts Board, in an email.

For the library mural, the only guidance from the Arts Board was the theme, “When Books Come to Life.” Each mural is paid for with donations and/or grants — no taxpayer dollars are used.

This particular mural is funded by the “Play Everywhere” grant that the city received earlier this year from KABOOM!, a nonprofit dedicated to improving public spaces.

The mural is only one piece of a larger library project funded by that grant. The overall project, titled “Playful Tranquility,” will span the north, west and south sides of the library. There will be swings, a bike rack, seating, art installations and music areas on the north side. The west side will feature a rain garden, play areas, more art and a “storybook path” leading into the library. And the south side facing 13 Mile Road will feature art among the trees, another play area, and the mural by Trotto spanning the facade.

In addition, an outdoor seating area called the Tranquility Center will feature Wi-Fi support that can be used for programming and events by members of the public, such as presentations, puppet shows, musical performances and more. The city is also working with the group Freenotes Harmony to incorporate musical instruments that follow a nature theme, such as flower-shaped instruments topped with butterfly sculptures that can play different notes.

As for the mural, “The artist described the whimsical mural design as an illustrated depiction of the different places a book can transport a reader,” Platzke said. “It’s intended to excite readers, and bring out the imagination in all who view it.

“We have received a lot of positive feedback from residents in response to the murals,” Platzke added. “Children and adults seem to really enjoy seeing the fun pops of colors throughout our parks, and I’m always excited when I see people gathering around the buildings, and taking photos with the murals in the backgrounds.”

The creator of the Arts Board, Madison Heights City Councilman Mark Bliss, agreed. He said the murals are a testament to the hard work of a board that has made public art a major priority.

“These murals are incredibly popular with our residents,” Bliss said in an email. “They serve as landmarks, photo backdrops, and as inspiration for all of the creative aspiring artists of all ages who call our city home.

“It’s not only about having beautiful art to look at while you’re walking a trail or into the library — public art has an economic advantage as well,” he said, pointing to a study by Artserve Michigan, which claims $51 is added back to the local economy for every dollar invested in the arts.

“For small cities like ours, that means that because of that art, more people will buy homes here, visit our parks and library, and spend money at local businesses. And for Madison Heights, we get the added benefit that the majority of these murals were paid for through grants and private donations, and were managed by volunteers,” Bliss said. “So it’s one of those incredibly rare scenarios where the city is reaping major benefits with nearly no direct cost to the taxpayers.”

The councilman said he’s proud of the board, which has also held successful events such as the strolling music festival Trail Tunes, which took place this year and last. The socially distanced event provided a rare opportunity for the community to come together during the pandemic.  

“We’ve made a huge impact on the community in such a short time with the murals, and events like Trails Tunes and the Pumpkin Walk that brought the community together when we needed it the most,” Bliss said. “Creating this board and serving as its council rep has been an incredible experience. Not just because of these tangible accomplishments, but also because what this group of volunteers has done has inspired other boards, and even council, and has created a precedent for how we can work together to make this city better off through small improvements like these.”