East Lansing Seeks Artists to Complete Massive Downtown Mural

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Natalie Rose for ELi

Artist Lauren Asta in front of the mural she completed with funds contributed by the developers of the Center City District project.

Calling all creatives! The East Lansing Arts Commission is seeking qualified, Michigan-based artists to apply to create a public mural in downtown East Lansing. The mural, projected to be 23-feet high by 53-feet wide, will be located on the fourth and fifth floors of the Albert Avenue Garage (218 Albert Ave.), in the Center City development.

Art Festival and Art Initiatives Coordinator for the City of East Lansing Heather Majano spoke about the request for qualifications (RFQ), which is funded using Public Art Fund dollars through the Percent for Art program.

“We did a RFP (request for proposals) process that ended up resulting in the lemongrass sculpture in Valley Court Park, in 2019,” Majano said. “This process is a little bit different. When we did that, we were basically asking the artists to create a sculpture for us special for that location, and then we would pick the sculpture they created, and have that installed.”

Majano said the process this time differs, to not only gauge the interest of artists but also pay them for their craft.

Photo courtesy of Heather Majano.

Lemongrass by Dane Porter in Valley Court Park. This was the first piece of art purchased by the Arts Commission using Public Art Fund dollars.

“We’re asking for just qualifications initially, we want to hear from artists and see who’s interested, who can do a mural of this scale, and who has done a mural of this scale,” she said.

After artists submit their RFQ detailing their educational experience, résumé, and samples of work, the next phase is the RFP (proposal) stage. Three to four artists will be selected in this stage, where they’ll be paid to create a mural.

“We want to make sure that the artists are compensated for their time, for creating something special just for us. We are going to select from the submissions of the qualification, three to four artists that really stand out to us, really align with the goal of this mural, and we’ll compensate them $500 each for their time they’re taking for creating something special for us,” Majano said.

From the remaining few artists, the Artist Selection panel will pick a single mural, send it to the Arts Commission, and onto the City Council for the final phase. Majano said the other murals might end up displayed publicly too, as the City will have rights to the art and can use it for other designated walls or businesses throughout downtown.

As for this mural location, Majano said the display space is “pretty huge,” with the ‘canvas’ of the exterior fourth and fifth floor of the Albert Avenue Garage. The mural by Lauren Asta covers the first and second floors of the building. Since the area is “visible from blocks away in downtown East Lansing,” Majano said “the Commission is really interested in making that wall more dynamic and helping draw people downtown. Right now, it’s just blank grey.”

The mural theme will capture and embody the local character, reflect a sense of community, and celebrate the city’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as the importance art plays in defining a sense of place.

“We want to make sure everyone feels welcome and represented in this mural, and increase the diversity of the artists and the art that we have downtown,” Majano said. After chosen mural artists are selected from the RFQ, they will have about a month to complete their mural proposals, with the installation goal and dedication set for August 2021.

Interested artists have until March 30, by 5 p.m. to submit their qualifications. (This is a corrected deadline, altered from the initial March 23, as stated in the press release.) Details of the RFQ, the selection process, and more are available on the City of East Lansing website.

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