The Great Mural Project was started to bring even more of a good thing to Saginaw.
“There have been so many amazing artists and muralists creating public art in Saginaw for a long time, along with arts organizations that focus on public art,” says Jamie Forbes, who works as Director of External Affairs for Saginaw Transit Authority Regional Services - STARS and is a member of the City Council. “We are absolutely not the first group doing something like this, but we’re excited that the community has been welcoming to us and that hopefully, we can also bring a little more attention to the work that is already out there.”
That history of public art in Saginaw led to an informal meeting in 2017 on how to continue encouraging and support the creation of public art, and The Great Mural Project began.
Along with Alayna Wesener, a Communications Specialist at McLaren Bay Region and owner of Sushi Remix, Cassi Miller, a Business Development Specialist at Saginaw Future Inc., and Dawn Goodrow, owner of dawn of a new day coffee house, the group, along with a army of community supporters and contributors, painted their first mural in 2018, and their second mural in 2019.
Wesener is the newest member of the group, and says that the combination of art and community is what pulled her into the project.
“I joined the group because I love Saginaw deeply and had always wanted to do an outdoor mural,” says Wesener. “One of the big initiatives with the first mural, located in downtown Saginaw, was to get kids from the community involved, so we were able to work with Saginaw Arts & Sciences Academy students, inspiring future artists and helping them grow. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
Forbes says that kids contributed to every part of the project.
“We even received money from FORCE, the youth advisory council of the Saginaw Community Foundation for that mural, so not only were they part of inspiring and painting the design, but they were also part of funding it as well,” she says.
While it might appear that painting a mural is as simple as grabbing some paint and brushes, painting a mural as large as the Downtown Saginaw mural on a building while ensuring it stays beautiful for years to come is quite a task.
“We decided we’d have it install and paint on panels, so it ended up being a lot of research because we couldn’t just go to the store and grab something. We had to lean on experts in our community to pull this off.”
The group gives credit to the Saginaw County Land Bank, Sherwin-Williams on Bay Road, Spence Brothers, Mike Mosher of Saginaw Valley State University, Brian at Saginaw County Parks, Sandlot Sports, Saginaw DDA, Dornbos Printing Impressions, City of Saginaw Police Dept. and more community partners for making the mural possible.
“It was magical because every single person we asked for assistance said, ‘Of course! How can we help?’” says Wesener.
“And that was the success of the whole idea,” says Miller. “When you drive around the City of Saginaw, there are so many murals and pieces of public art - it’s incredible. So we thought we’d try to capitalize on that, but we still didn’t know for sure if there was going to be enough support. But to see the amount of community we had was amazing.”