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 Artist Wendy Popko’s family and friends attend the event to show their excitement for the new mural.

Artist Wendy Popko’s family and friends attend the event to show their excitement for the new mural.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Utica cuts ribbon to new mural on downtown building

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published November 4, 2019

 Wendy Popko and Mayor Thom Dionne shake hands while holding the ribbon they cut to dedicate the mural.

Wendy Popko and Mayor Thom Dionne shake hands while holding the ribbon they cut to dedicate the mural.

Photo by Deb Jacques

UTICA — The city of Utica and the Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting Nov. 1 to celebrate a new mural that recently was painted on a building in downtown Utica.

The new mural, called “Homeward Bound,” was created by mural artist Wendy Popko on the WeatherTech building, 7747 Auburn Road, over the summer.

Guest speakers attended the event, including Popko, Mayor Thom Dionne, state Sen. Peter Lucido and state Rep. Diana Farrington.

Popko, from Sterling Heights, said her design represents Utica and its unique history.

“This is an up-and-coming area, so I wanted to bring that energy,” she said.

The mural contains symbolism related to Utica.

“Inspired by historical influence with a modern vibe, ‘Homeward Bound’ boasts of color and geometric patterns. Painted on the WeatherTech building in downtown Utica, a pig weathervane represents the small-town charm of Utica’s former nickname, “Hog’s Hollow,” from the abundance of wild boar that once roamed the area. The sunrise, painted in elliptical shapes, (was) inspired by an ammonite shell. The cyclist, one of many who ride through Utica, travels on the Iron Belle Trail, a path that connects Belle Isle to the Upper Peninsula,” Popko said in a prepared statement.

The mural, which cost the city $8,500 to install, also required one coat of SuperPaint on the building’s wall from Pluto Painting for $1,750.

With the permission of the property owner and under a contract with the Downtown Development Authority, the city had approved the artist to paint the mural on the building.

Popko said that while working on the mural, she received a huge amount of support and interest in what she was doing.

“The amount of support,  the amount of excitement, the community pulling together for art — that to me is just incredible, and to be a part of something like this is just incredible. I’m obviously at a loss of words,” Popko said.

“It brightens up my day when I see the bright colors, so I hope it cheers up others too,” she said.

Farrington, who lives in Utica, said that the mural is a great addition to Utica’s downtown.

“It’s beautiful. It’s just a great addition to little Utica, and I’ve lived here my whole life, and it’s just wonderful to see all the changes,” she said.

Dionne said the mural is a new point of interest for visitors to Utica and to residents.

“It’s amazing. It’s very inspiring and gives us a feeling like there’s new activities happening here in the city, and it’s bringing people into the city that wouldn’t normally visit. This is just one piece of many that are scheduled to be coming to the city in the next handful of years. The City Council, the DDA and myself are very excited that we were able to make this happen, and going forward this is going to be a great thing for the city — making it a walkable, enjoyable downtown where people come appreciate the art and culture that is making its way into Utica,” Dionne said.

The event also featured an art crawl in which local businesses displayed works of art by the artist at seven locations throughout downtown.

Councilman Gus Calandrino said that working with Popko went smoothly and that the mural does a good job of representing Utica and its history.

“We’re so pleased to have Wendy Popko’s new mural as a permanent part of downtown Utica. We think it really adds to the vibrancy of our city. It’s very colorful, and it’s a great illustration of Utica’s past history and all the way to our future, which we hope is a very bright future, and Wendy’s a great person to work with,” he said.

The mural covers the whole side of the building, which is located between Brownell Street and Cass Avenue in downtown Utica.

The artwork for the art crawl will continue to be displayed until Nov. 30.

For more information on the mural, call the city of Utica at (586) 739-1600.