New Art Center mural ready just in time for 2016 Ann Arbor Art Fair

ANN ARBOR, MI - A new mural is expanding the Ann Arbor Art Center's exploration of cultural identity beyond the four walls of the center.

The south exterior wall of the center at 117 W. Liberty St. in Ann Arbor now depicts two heads facing each other with a colorful array of butterflies flying between them. Detroit artist Chazz Miller designed the piece and led teens from the Neutral Zone in painting the mural earlier this month.

Several months in the making, the mural came together at the perfect time for the Art Center's current exhibition and the annual Ann Arbor Art Fair this week, said Omari Rush, director of community engagement at the Ann Arbor Art Center.

"We have people from around the country, maybe even the world, to see art and engage with art [at the Art Fair]," Rush said. "For us to be able to put that up is showing what Ann Arbor's thinking in the moment in regards to creative expression."

The mural was unveiled on July 15, and the art center's staff first got to know Miller when he contributed to the POP-X festival in October 2015. They were taken with his use of painted butterflies as a metaphor for immigration.

"It was a really great exploration of a social issue through the arts," Rush said. "We enjoyed working with Chazz so much that we said let's find a way to continue working with him and use these butterflies."

As plans fell into place for the new mural featuring Miller's work, art center staff reached out to the Neutral Zone's arts program coordinator Mary Thiefels to see if the teens she worked with could help. She happened to have a mural-painting camp scheduled for the second week in July, which meant the mural would be ready for an event at the art center planned for July 15.

"It was fun having that energy outside, and it was fun bringing those teens together," Rush said.

The Ann Arbor Art Center's next pop-in event, set for 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, July 22, will highlight the current exhibition, "Real American" juried by Ann Arbor photojournalist Peter Baker, which portrays different facets of American life and what it means to be an American.

"So we thought what better kind of combination than to have this exhibition about 'real Americans' and have this mural created that explored issues of immigration," Rush said. "Then it also speaks to this idea of identity, and certainly immigration, in this really wonderful way."

The mural project was funded by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and PNC bank.


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