Utica discusses potential downtown murals with artists and residents

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published October 29, 2018

 Utica Mayor Thom Dionne shows those at the meeting a possible location for a mural in downtown Utica.

Utica Mayor Thom Dionne shows those at the meeting a possible location for a mural in downtown Utica.

Photo by Kara Szymanski

UTICA — The city of Utica held a workshop meeting at City Hall Oct. 27 on the possibility of decorating commercial buildings in downtown Utica with murals.

The city invited artists and concerned citizens to attend. The meeting consisted of questions, answers and recommendations during conversation with anyone who wanted to attend, as well as a walk through the city to explore areas where murals could be painted.

Many of those who were interested in the topic attended and offered their input and thoughts on the possibility of adding murals and art to the blank spaces on Utica buildings.

Some artists recommended that there be at least two months of planning prior to starting the murals.

“I would recommend a couple months just because, you know, some of the artists, they are starting out projects, and then also too we want to finalize the design. We might like the direction that the artist is going in, but you might want to fine-tune or offer suggestions,” said Wendy Kopko, of Sterling Heights.

Kopko has done her own murals for the city of Sterling Heights.

Nichole Lint, of Sterling Heights, mentioned that some people like herself might not want to take on such a large area or might like the idea of being an assistant to another artist.

“For me, I’m an artist and I do painting and sculptures and glass blowing, so I’m very creative, but I’ve never done a mural before, so me personally, I would be OK with someone who does have experience to go and do the painting, have them lay it out, what colors do you want. … But I would want to be included (in) what’s being painted on the back of the buildings,” said Lint.

Kopko mentioned that Sterling Heights did something similar to what Lint said, in which people submitted ideas and an artist created the winner’s design.

“What Sterling Heights did last year was have a contest, an open contest to everyone, and you submitted your designs, and then those designs were painted by a professional muralist. So you won a cash prize, and then the muralist was hired to paint that image directly onto the wall. So they got a ton of different designs and an idea by people who are very artistic and very creative, but didn’t feel comfortable taking on a project like that,” said Kopko.

A topic that was brought up was that the size of the art could be different depending on the location and the building.

An artist from near Saginaw suggested using plywood as a platform for art so that it could be removed and set up somewhere else.

Mayor Thom Dionne mentioned that the artists’ ideas and recommendations were valuable because the city had not done something like this before.

“That’s the purpose of why we’re doing this (meeting). We have not done this before; you guys (the artists) have all done this before, and maybe been involved, so us as a city, we need your answers,” said Dionne.

The city will be meeting with business owners to discuss criteria. The city is also looking to artists to discover ways to prevent defacing of any artwork.

The city may consider paying artists or renting out the building wall space. The city may make the creation of the murals an event so that the public can come out and see them in progress.

The topic is still in the beginning, brainstorming stage.

Any interested artists would have to go through a vetting process to be considered for the opportunity.

Dionne said teachers at Utica High School are attempting to gauge student interest.

The city of Utica is looking to its citizens to see what they have to say about the possibility of adding art to its commercial buildings.

A sign-up list was provided to everyone who attended the Oct. 27 meeting for future contact on what will be going on.

The city invites anyone interested in the topic or the possibility of contributing to the murals to email the city at mayor@cityofutica.org.

For more information about the murals, visit the city of Utica Facebook page. For more information on the topic, call (586) 739-1600.