‘Parking Lot Picasso’ to turn asphalt into art

April 30 event will take place at Sterling Heights Senior Center

By: Andy Kozlowski | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published April 21, 2021

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STERLING HEIGHTS — Creatively inclined residents are invited to leave their mark on the city — or rather, its pavement — at an upcoming event involving chalk art.

The program, titled “Parking Lot Picasso,” is run by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and will use the south-end lot of the Sterling Heights Senior Center as its canvas.

Forty parking spaces are being reserved for this year’s event, which will take place 6:30-7:30 p.m. Friday, April 30, with a rain date set for Saturday, May 1 at the same time.

Each individual or group that signs up will receive their own space to decorate. The Senior Center is at 40200 Utica Road.

The cost is $12 per resident family and $18 per non-resident family. An ice cream treat will be provided, as well as plenty of colorful chalk. To register, visit bit.ly/31mNPn3.

Parking Lot Picasso made its debut last July. It was the first in-person event that the Parks and Recreation Department held in 2020 following the initial state shutdown due to COVID-19.

“That event was a sellout,” said Bobbie Wilson, the city’s recreation superintendent, via email. “At the time, we were trying to offer an opportunity for families to partake in an outdoor activity while being able to show off some of their creative talents. We achieved these goals with the first event and fully anticipate we will see similar results in our upcoming event.”

Wilson said she was very impressed by the creativity on display at the first event.

“We were amazed with the artistic talents of our participants. Many celebrated living in Sterling Heights in their artwork, along with many other beautiful designs,” Wilson said. “My personal favorite was a hot air balloon with the city of Sterling Heights logo featured. The artist used basically every color available to them and really spent the time to get every detail right.”

She said the idea for the event was developed through a departmental brainstorming session relating to programs the department could offer to residents during the pandemic. Wilson credits Kristen Briggs, the senior center director, with conceiving the concept. Wilson was then tasked with implementing it.

“Our focus was to provide a wide array of recreational opportunities for our residents while adhering to required safety measures and social distancing practices,” Wilson said. “Following our last (Parking Lot Picasso), many walkers utilizing the trails along Utica Road and within Dodge Park could be seen stopping in the parking lot and walking around to enjoy the artwork. We anticipate the same type of response to this event, as well.

“In addition to our families designing their works of art, we have also secured the talents of a local artist to professionally create the logo of our event sponsor, Genisys Credit Unit, in the parking lot area,” she added.   

Kyle Langlois, the city’s parks and recreation director, said in an email that there are a number of other programs coming up in the city. Check out www.myshpr.net for the full catalog.

His department is currently working to open the city’s first fairy garden near the end of June, which will occupy a short path through a wooded area west of the Senior Center. The garden will feature whimsical touches such as fairy houses nestled among the underbrush and in the canopy. The same month, on June 15, the Sterling Heights Community Center will host the next workshop on building decor for fairy gardens. That workshop will be the last in its series.

The fairy garden is another example of how the department has gotten creative with programming during a time when the pandemic has placed restrictions on in-person gatherings.

“We have worked around many challenges over the past year,” Langlois said, describing the need to modify new and existing programs to align with state guidelines and keep everyone safe. “This has been a constantly changing exercise … so keeping staff and participants up to speed on changes has been a secondary challenge to this. In addition, not being able to serve the same number of residents as usual has been tough to get past. We know many people enjoy our services.

“We are excited to continue providing safe and exciting programs for our residents, with even more on tap for 2021 in comparison to 2020,” he continued. “We also want to sincerely thank our sponsors, and specifically Genisys Credit Union in this instance and many others, for supporting our events and recognizing the importance of what we do in our community.”