East Lansing has added to an ever-growing arts presence in its downtown area with a new set of murals focused on mental health awareness. The project depicts the faces of people who struggle with anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns.
The project is in partnership with the Associated Students of Michigan State University’s (ASMSU) Mental Health Awareness Initiative, one that Matt Apostle, the City of East Lansing Community and Economic Development Specialist, said was years in the making.
“ASMSU commissioned these murals from a local artist named Mila Theroux back in 2015 or 2016, and had originally planned for them to be at then Mackerel Sky, on the 100-200 block of downtown East Lansing,” Apostle, who was previously ASMSU’s Vice President for Governmental Affairs, told ELi.
“Due to leadership turnover at ASMSU, the project kind of got lost in the shuffle – combined with new developments like Target, and the pandemic – [and] made this project be a little bit forgotten about for a few years,” he said.
Last fall, the project was revisited. The murals were procured and then installed on April 8, 2022. Seven murals are now publicly visible on the south-facing wall of the Division Street Garage, across the alleyway from Starbucks.
“The subjects of the murals are members of the greater community and they’re individuals who suffer from mental health crises,” Apostle said. “There are seven murals, and six are individuals, and the seventh is a description of what the project is about.”
Apostle told ELi that organizers scoped out new locations and ended up with the Division Street garage due to its overhead coverage, which can protect the murals from weather and its central location downtown.
This permanent installation aims to prioritize mental health awareness and provide resources for help. Apostle said the installation is relevant in today as focus on mental health has increased, particularly now with the compounding effects the pandemic has had on many people’s health and wellness.
“The goal is to release the stigma still surrounding mental health by having a centralized mural that anybody can view, so you can see you’re not alone in any struggles you may be having,” Apostle stated. “There’s also the utility of the center mural having resources provided for individuals who may be currently struggling with mental health concerns, for numbers and websites to visit or reach out to.”
Apostle mentioned that the City was happy to make this idea a reality, and hopes to collaborate with ASMSU more in the future.