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For painter Mia Serafini, happiness follows wherever her paint brush lands. For her first mural, in 2016, Serafini introduced explosions of limey-yellows and blood orange with whimsical accents of pale pink — her signature — to the industrial color scheme of MSU’s Broad Business Complex. Last week, the 24-year old artist dived back into her punchy, pink palette to surge vibrancy through the underpass of Shiawassee Street Bridge.
Serafini’s rosy, geometrically patterned-mural is titled “Community Growth,” and part of a larger exhibit of new, site-specific installations along Lansing’s River Trail called ARTPath. She is the first artist in the project’s two-year history to invite the community to help complete a mural.
“I’m hoping with it being on the River Trail that the people who created it will see it all the time and have a sense of ownership to it,” Serafini said.
The Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center partnered with the Lansing Parks and Recreation Department to host ARTpath’s kick-off event Friday. The art walk started at Turner Dodge House with speeches by Mayor Andy Shor and Barb Whitney, the gallery’s executive director.
The project boasts 20 temporary and permanent installations along the River Trail — doubling last year’s exhibit. The juried show was curated by Katrina Daniels, the gallery’s exhibitions and sales director, who said the goal is to keep the murals up for “as long as we can.”
“After 2019, under the Shiawassee Bridge will be revitalized essentially,” Daniels said, referring to the $2 million community funded Rotary Park project underway, “So we will be looking at other sites. We are just going to be nimble and keep our ear to the ground for what the community wants and evolve this project to match that.”
The three-mile installation connects the “big three” neighborhoods along River Trail: Old Town, downtown and REO Town. Under the Elm Street bridge lives “Kiauitzin: Little Rain and the River.” The piece took two years to complete and is dedicated to Aztec traditional culture and the symbiotic relationship between the rain goddess Kiauitzin, the river and nature – specifically flowers. The artist Kia —short for Kiauitzin — Ix Arriaga is from Warren and started the mural last year for ARTPath, but returned to complete the story of her namesake piece.
“This year I wanted to honor the Lansing river,” said Arriaga, who reflects her Aztec heritage through her work by including its traditional symbols. To show how the river nourishes the land, the artists added flowers to represent “the beauty in the arts.”
New to ARTPath is Flint-based artist Isaiah Lattimore, whose piece “Working Man’s Special” can be found alongside the Grand River under the I-496 bridge. The mural invokes Michigan’s blue-collar workers done in the fashion of Da Vinci’s sketches. Lattimore said he gained some insight on Lansing from Daniels, who described its people as “hard hat intellectuals.”
The gestural quality of Da Vinci’s sketch work shows through Lattimore’s portraits of a man wearing a hard hat and Mother Mary, while incorporating aerosol paint and graffiti lettering.
Lattimore said he got his start using aerosol paint in high school “as a punk kid doing vandalous things” with his friends. He has transitioned into doing more "thoughtful public art" pieces but carries his spray cans with a vision reminiscent of his angsty past.
“Graffiti art is underrepresented in academia,” he said. “So, the form has kind of developed from the standpoint of artists who are removed from your traditional art scene. It’s no lesser, but it’s different.”
Lattimore agreed that street art practices have historically been successful in relating to their environment and serve as a catalyst for reflection. As more public visualization projects pop up in Lansing — the home of retired autoworkers, Latinxs and punks — Daniels said the Lansing Art Gallery hopes to keep public art “part of the fabric of our community.”