When Ozay Moore first moved to Lansing, he didn’t quite know how long he’d stay. After getting to know this city — winding his way through its many house shows and art galleries — he started to see the city as a beautiful, idiosyncratic place.
Moore teamed up with his partner and fellow muralist Dustin Hunt to play the Below the Stacks festival, a citywide project aiming to fill Lansing with murals that displayed exactly what makes it so special.
“We wanted it to highlight the diversity and creative community,” explained Moore. “We’re a diverse city full of blank walls.”
Moore and Hunt found some local artists who agreed to be their interns, found local talent like Samskee and Spiz and used their connections to find artists from all around.
“There were people we really wanted to bring to Lansing who have great reputations in the mural art scene,” said Moore. “A lot of the pieces were of Black women, Black men, people of color.”
One piece Moore highlighted is by the mural artist Imagine. It’s a mass of Sanskrit scrolled across the Centennial Building, reading, “All are welcome.”
“Lansing is a city of refuge for displaced folks,” said Moore. “We wanted to tie that into the festival.”
During the festival itself, which took place September 2019, Moore felt overwhelmed by surreal feelings.
“This felt like a special moment in Lansing history,” he laughed.
Moore wanted Lansing residents to ask questions about ownership.
“Who really owns this building?” he asked. “It was a deep experience.”
Zooming out to describe Lansing’s art scene, Moore grew ponderous. He began wondering whether or not the city is going through an artistic renaissance.
“Some people will stop you and tell you that the real renaissance happened in 1965 or something. Whatever I happen to remember is the real renaissance,” he joked. “But for the 16 years I’ve been here, I’ve seen lots of connections and lots of power moves and collaborations.”
Moore hesitated to compare Lansing to New York City or Chicago. Those cities are where you move if you want to get famous. His advice to the people of Lansing: make the most of your time here.
“Some people will be here indefinitely, some will just stay there a bit after school,” said Moore. “I hope they get involved and know that they’re contributing to a city that doesn’t need to change anything about itself.”