Two murals added to Downtown Midland

This article was updated to reflect that Rachel Jensen first ran her booth at the Midland Art Fair this year.

Downtown Midland gained two new murals and drew thousands of visitors over the weekend.

Two major art events on Saturday and Sunday, the Art Seen Festival and the Midland Art Fair, attracted many art lovers for shopping and helping with a community mural.

The Art Seen Festival involved two murals being painted downtown: a community mural at Ace Hardware and a solo mural behind Little Forks Outfitters. This festival began last year when a community mural of a fox was painted on the side of Twice Is Nice Resale Boutique.

This year, the community mural was painted on the outside wall of Ace Hardware. The mural featured leaves at the bottom of various colors and shades for community members to paint. Mural co-designer Jazzmyn Benitez said the palettes with various shades of colors allowed more freedom for the community with painting than last year’s fox mural.

The community sections of the fox mural were mostly comprised of solid colors and geometric shapes, said festival committee member and mural co-designer Dacia Parker. But this year, people could put their own designs and spin into the mural. Some painted solid colors, some put in simple leaf patterns, and one daring painter painted a honeycomb pattern complete with bees.

“Each of these leaves represent members of our community; that is why they come and paint them,” Benitez said. “They can put their own mark on the wall, and it shows our individuality.”

The mural also came with a sun to represent a ray of hope and a red-winged blackbird, since it is generally a community-based bird that is hardly ever seen by itself. Benitez said the bird was chosen for its guidance through stories and to represent a new beginning, since it is usually seen at the start of spring.

The mural at Little Forks was designed and painted solely by artist Maddison Chaffer. The Grand Rapids resident has been a professional artist since the age of 19 and began painting murals two years ago. Chaffer also has 10 murals in Grand Rapids, one in Traverse City and one in Lansing.

Chaffer said their work is “place-specific,” meaning they do a lot of research on the place where they are painting and incorporate it into the mural. Their style is a sort of amalgamation of science textbooks and comic books, to be both anatomical and goofy, Chaffer said.

The mural is a collection of imagery that represents the Midland/Great Lakes Bay Region and the state of Michigan as a whole. Chaffer said they did some light Google Maps digging to find houses to fit into the mural and included the image of a mammoth skeleton that was found in the mid-Michigan area many years ago.

“It feels like a big honor to be involved in neighborhoods that is bigger than me,” Chaffer said. “I can make the mural, but at the end of the day, I am not the one who is seeing it every day on my walk home from work. I enjoy the idea that I can leave something behind that ends up being more important to the people who encounter it than it is to me.”

Over on East Main Street, the annual Midland Art Fair returned with nearly 100 vendors spread across downtown. The event is run by Midland Center for the Arts.

One of these vendors was Newly Minted Michigander, run by Midland crochet artist Rachel Jensen. She said she mainly did craft shows before deciding to run a booth at the Midland Art Fair for the first time this year, which she said was a big success.

She liked the show because she got to meet other vendors and see the reactions of customers to her products.

Another Midland-based artist also made her debut at the art fair: painter Carolina Donoso. She began selling her art professionally about six months ago after being an artist for about 10 years. Her work uses lots of colors and figures, including stick figures or realistic portraits.

But it was not just local artists at the art fair. Burton-based pottery maker Carla Gibson came with her business, Chuber Pottery. This was her first art fair in two years, and she enjoys coming to Midland.

“We did the Midland Holiday Art Fair a couple of years ago before the pandemic, and the vibe of Midland is just wonderful,” Gibson said. “It was fun and I feel like the whole town has a nice art appreciation.”

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