Painting of outdoor mural underway at Civic Center Park

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published May 10, 2019

MADISON HEIGHTS — A nondescript fixture of Civic Center Park in Madison Heights is about to receive a dramatic facelift.

At press time, work had begun on an outdoor mural that will span all four sides of the Jaycee shelter building at the foot of the hill in the park on 13 Mile Road, west of John R Road, the imagery flowing from one side to the next. The building first had to be power-washed and primed.

The city chose artist Jennifer Ramirez, a Madison Heights resident of 16 years, whose winning design is titled “The Power of Imagination.” Ramirez has previously painted murals at Edmonson Elementary in Madison Heights, as well as at Eisenhower High School in Shelby Township, where she has been an art teacher for 23 years. The city is paying her for her work.  

“What I hope the mural does for people is to inspire their own imaginations,” Ramirez said in a statement provided by the city. “I’m a true believer in Albert Einstein’s words, ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge.’ … I hope people look at the mural and it stimulates and incites their own creativity.’”

The artist was selected from nearly two dozen who applied following the city’s announcement late last year. While city officials did not describe the winning design in detail, Mark Bliss, the mayor pro tem of Madison Heights, said he’s looking forward to the finished product.

“It’s creative and whimsical, and I believe it will inspire anyone who visits the park — especially children, who I think will connect with the scenes,” Bliss said. “I’m also excited that the muralist we selected is a Madison Heights resident. That wasn’t a requirement, and in fact the majority of artists interested weren’t residents, but I think it helps expand on the goal of bringing arts to the city by having a city artist paint our first mural.”

The Jaycee building was originally donated by the community group of the same name in the late ’80s/early ’90s, and was used last year during the Pre-Fourth of July Festival in the Park to showcase winning entries in the city’s photo contest. Both the outdoor mural and the photo contest were initiatives by the city’s Arts and Culture Committee.

“We are fortunate to have received so many proposals from extremely talented artists,” said Kymm Clark, chairperson of the arts board. “Jennifer Ramirez’s work speaks for itself. She has decorated our school buildings with her incredible imagination over the years, and we can’t wait to see how she leaves her mark on our city.”

More murals are planned. The arts board is currently raising funds and will first consider the other artists who presented their works prior to making another public call for artists.

A private/public partnership with a local Madison Heights business is one concept the city is currently considering. Businesses interested in being the site of a mural can contact Amy Misczak, the arts board secretary, at amymisczak@madison-heights.org.

Two more sites that the board has identified include the side of the library facing the gazebo, near the corner of 13 Mile and John R roads, and a wall on Madison Heights Fire Station No. 2 on John R Road. Those who want to submit mural ideas and/or location suggestions can do so by emailing mhartsboard@gmail.com.

And while a date has not been chosen yet, the arts board is planning a community event to celebrate the mural in progress. The event will feature sidewalk chalk art and a family barbecue, and will take place sometime prior to the Pre-Fourth of July Festival in late June, which is when the mural is expected to be completed. A pop-up exhibit featuring art by local children is also being planned for inside the shelter building.  

“In my opinion, this initiative will go down as one of the single most impactful initiatives that any of our citizen-led boards have ever accomplished,” Bliss said. “This board of volunteers not only selected the location and led the call for artists, but they also raised the thousands of dollars necessary to pay for this mural. … Through their hard work and passion for the community, our vision of bringing arts to Madison Heights is now being realized, with this mural being the physical embodiment of the change we talk about at each and every City Council meeting.”