Flint native Lisa Zacks captures the beauty of home in Greater Flint Arts Council exhibit

FLINT, Michigan — From July 14 until August 4, the Greater Flint Arts Council (GFAC) of downtown Flint is hosting a special exhibit that showcases the works of local artists. The gallery often reveals a new exhibit with different criteria, and for this one, the theme 'Michigan Artists Invitational' features the works of Michigan artists.

The exhibit also features paintings from native Michiganders who no longer call the state home but keep it close to heart such as Lisa Zacks, a Flint native who now lives in Florida.

In January 2016, Zacks was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system. Due to complications, she couldn’t travel or visit with friends and family. While she normally paints abstracts, she started to paint photographs she had taken while in Flint, and this helped her feel connected even when she physically couldn’t.

These detailed paintings of memorable parts of Flint helped Zacks in a therapeutic way while going through treatments and recovery. “Most of my acrylic paintings are usually abstract, so this was a big change for me, but in trying to recreate the photographs, the attention to detail was exactly what I needed to distract me at the time,” said Zacks.

Interstate 475 Sign. 24 x 24, acrylic on canvas, by Lisa Zacks.
Over six years, Zacks painted pieces of Flint that feel like home to her. “I grew up on the west side of Flint, behind McLaren Hospital, but I spent a lot of time downtown during my years at the University of Michigan-Flint, so downtown has always felt like home to me,” Zacks explained. “My husband also published an alternative newspaper (The Uncommon Sense) for several years, which is how we met, and the office was downtown above Flint City T-Shirts, so we spent a lot of time together downtown.” 

Zacks took to social media as well to get her through and help others. “When I was going through chemotherapy, I didn’t want to burden my family and friends with my thoughts and feelings about the process and I was really looking for support and wanted to connect with other young adult cancer patients, so I started a separate Instagram account for that purpose. I would post pictures of what I was going through and different experiences that happened to me and it really resonated with people,” said Zacks. 

With the social media account reaching people, Zacks was encouraged to create a book. She transferred her posts as well as journal entries into a book titled InstaSick, now available on Amazon. 

With recovery behind her, Zacks is now traveling again and is excited about getting to show her art of Flint to the people of Flint. “It’s a bit surreal! For a while there, I didn’t think it was ever going to happen,” said Zacks. “I had applied to a couple of galleries but just couldn’t get in, so I am so grateful to Greg Fiedler and the GFAC for this opportunity.”  

The Greater Flint Arts Council is showing six paintings of Lisa Zacks’ until August 4, 2023. To see more of her life and art, follow her on Instagram.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Megan Speaks.