Aug. 18 2016 08:45 AM

Blighted building gets graffiti paint job

THURSDAY, Aug. 18 — If you’ve driven by Lansing Brewing Co. recently, you’ve probably noticed a colorful new addition to the area. No, not the apartments overlooking Cooley Law School Stadium, but a vacant building tucked between the brewery and the ballpark. The small, blighted building has undergone a colorful change.

Local graffiti artist Sam “Samskee” DeBourbon was one of two artists who spray painted the building with graffiti Saturday for a Pop Up Graffiti Live Art Event. The event, organized by the Gillespie Group and the Arts Council of Greater Lansing, featured live music and a weekend-long artistic display.

“We picked Samskee because he is a member of the Arts Council and has a great relationship and a really great track record in using graffiti art to positively enhance the community,” said Josh Holiday, program manager for the Arts Council.

The project when the Gillespie Group, which acquired the building earlier this year, asked the Arts Council for ideas of how to revitalize the property. DeBourbon was one of the first ideas the Arts Council came up with.

“A lot of his work can be seen in REO Town. He did the old motel that was right up the street in REO Town in a partnership with the Ingham County Land Bank a couple of years ago,” Holiday said. “He’s very familiar with this process of painting these blighted buildings and really giving some life to them, really giving an opportunity for people to come and see them.”

According to Rachel Michaud, the vice president of Gillespie Group, graffiti was a natural choice because it fit the “grit” of the downtown area.

“It really comes down to that bigger vision of everything we’d love to see downtown, that energy and all that placemaking and the artistic flair,” Michaud said. “Being right outside of the Lansing Brewing Company, we just felt like it was a perfect spot for that kind of energy to be displayed.”

Placemaking has been a buzzword in Lansing lately, with groups like the Arts Council seeking to to carve out a bit of space for unique, local art that will draw people into the city and make Lansing a better place to live.

“The more and more we do studies and start to look at some of those leading cities that are really doing a great job at bringing new energy to an urban core, you see a lot of the messaging that happens in that line of art,” Michaud said. “We just felt like it was very fitting.”

Samskee will be applying finishing touches to the building throughout the end of the week. While some suspect the building might be torn down in the coming months, Michaud said there are no set plans for the space.

“Everything is pretty speculative right now,” she said. “Obviously we’d like to do something that would complement what is already downtown. With it sitting right there off Cedar, I think it’s in a prime area. We’ve talked about whether it be some kind of spin-off from the brewing company or whether it would be something that would be more service-oriented. We’re just starting to explore those ideas and would love people to shoot us their thoughts and ideas.”