Art Attack in REO Town sees music and art come together for good cause


Volunteers work on painting a mural at REO Town's Art Attack.

Lansing musicians, joined by on the spot volunteers, attacked a room full of murals Saturday with black paint and rock ‘n’ roll.

Working with the Capital Area Partnership nonprofit, the REO Town Commercial Association’s Art Attack saw the community paint murals on thin sheets of wood to board up the Walter French Academy’s windows — beautifying the building while it awaits renovation.

Mural subjects included pop-culture icons, such as Bob Ross, Prince, David Bowie and Bob Marley.

Donated by the Eyde company to the Capital Area Partnership in early 2018, the affordable housing nonprofit intends to develop the 1925 property and former school into marketplace apartments.

“We’ve painted picnic tables for patios of restaurants that’ve just opened; we’ve done trash cans for the parks department. Painting murals for the Walter French Academy and Capital area partnership is the biggest thing we’ve ever done,” said Ryan Wert, executive director of the REO Town Commercial Association.

Art Attack was the first festival that brought attention to REO Town, Wert said, a neighborhood often ignored at the time. The annual event started with a budget of $300, and a group of residents hungry for positive change.

“When we started out, we were trying to be something, anything. We didn’t know what we were doing and an arts festival seemed like a safe bet,” Wert said. “This shifted from a thing to get people to come to REO Town — and let them know it exists and is safe — to creating something that affects the region long term.”

Mural painting volunteer Kody Pilkinton said she saw a farmers market event in REO Town on Facebook, and followed the sound of the bands to the painting site.

“I was standing there listening to the band, and a guy saw I had a David Bowie ‘Labyrinth’ shirt on. He asked me if I wanted to paint Bowie and I was very honored, because I’m a huge fan.”

The murals completed at Art Attack will go specifically on the Cedar Street side of the building, the Mount Hope Avenue side of the building is on the agenda for a future project.

In contrast to prior years, Art Attack 2018 did not feature an art competition. Wert said he did away with the art competition for more volunteers to come by and be a part of the festivities.

“The idea of a cohesive mural felt interesting as a finished product, so what we ended up doing was a community paint by number,” he said. “If we have a project that gets the community out to make something and feel good about it, we’ve reached our goal.”


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