Graffiti artists unite in Flint neighborhood beautification effort

FLINT, Michigan—There’s an image of a woman towering over a dark city. She has a paint bucket in her hand and is showering the city with an array of different colors.

There is a certain truth to this art. It tells the story of Flint’s “Graffiti Evolution,” which has transformed old-school taggers into urban artists collectively working to beautify the city. Gallery on the Go, a nonprofit organization in Flint, continues to pioneer this evolution. 

This particular painting was one of 30 boards created earlier this month during the Free City Art Festival, which is produced by Flint Public Art Project, Amplifier Inc., Andy Warhol Foundation for the Arts, Greater Flint Arts Council, and Black Rocks Arts Foundation. 

Armed with aerosol cans, artists are able to showcase their creativity while at the same time bringing beauty to neighborhoods and streets that have too-long been neglected.

“It’s a celebration of local artists and Flint’s history,” said Sandra Branch, artist and founder of Gallery on the Go. “It’s also reclaiming industrial sites that we repurpose into art festivals to show what industrial blight has done to the city and what art has done to revive the beauty.”

The Free City Art Festival start in 2013 with an eye toward bringing varied art forms to light Mary Everett, a mixed media artist from Flushing, showcased her wood art, aboriginal dot painting, and painted rocks. 

“I’m trying to do more of what I love and not work for anyone anymore. I want to work for myself and spread love through art.”

As for her cousin, Pauly Everett, he sticks to more visual artistry and draws his inspiration from all around. 

“I get inspired by music and all the people around me.” Pauly said. “I get inspired by different cultures.” 

In the five years since the festival began, the site it calls home has transformed. The former Chevy in the Hole location is now known as Chevy Commons and more than $3 million has been pumped into the brownfield site to make it a year-round active public space.
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