Murals Take Colorful Shape 'Under The Bridge'

Jun 26, 2017

What was once a dark highway overpass will soon be awash in colorful light.

On Tuesday night, civic leaders will formally turn on the lights at the U.S. 127 bridge over Michigan Avenue.  That’s the spot many people in mid-Michigan view as a symbolic gateway linking Lansing and East Lansing.

 

BRIAN WHITFIELD:

“We’ve got a lot of people that come through here.  I was surprised how often bikers pass by and joggers and people just commuting from one place to another.  It’s actually really nice because they always give me positive reactions and good feedback.”

KEVIN LAVERY:

“What do they tell you when they come biking or walking by?”

WHITFIELD:

“They usually say they really like it.  They give me thumbs up.  Some people say they like the colors. Just various things they say, but mostly it’s positive.   The traffic; I hear cars honking and a lot of thumbs up and really good positive feedback.”

LAVERY:

“Is this panel completely finished?”

WHITFIELD:

“No...it has a ways to go.  People who really know me know that I’ll probably work on it for 10 years!  At some point it will be done.  But it’s really close.  It’s probably two-thirds of the way done.”

Brian Whitfield has participated in the annual "Art Prize" competition in Grand Rapids.
Credit Kevin Lavery / WKAR-MSU

             

 

 

 

 

 

 

LAVERY:   “Is that the madness of being an artist...it’s never really done?”

WHITFIELD:

“It’s never really finished.  Never completely satisfied!  Part of the problem is that people are seeing all the process, which you normally don’t see an artist go through the process of changing things and rearranging things and erasing parts and correcting things that don’t like.  So it’s kind of interesting to be in the public view while I’m going through that whole process.”

 LAVERY:

“And what is this going to be, eventually?  I see a woman with an outstretched hand; I see the Capitol dome.”

WHITFIELD:

 “Yep.  A young lady is playing basketball with a guy who kind of represents (Earvin) “Magic” (Johnson), symbolically.  I have his number from his (MSU) college days, number 33, on his jersey, but he’s wearing a uniform for a high school, which was at Everett.  It’s a red uniform.  So, it’s kind of a nod towards that time in Lansing’s history.  And then you have the capital and the (BWL) smokestacks behind the capital, and on the other side you have Sparrow Hospital and Lugnuts (Thomas M. Cooley Law School) Stadium.”

*(NOTE): The other Lansing-themed panel will represent General Motors.

LAVERY:

“I’m looking at the far side of the road.  What are your plans for those two unfinished murals?” 

WHITFIELD:

 “That side will be the East Lansing side because traffic is traveling east.  On one panel I’m going to have young people looking for butterflies and fireflies.  That symbolically shows how kids are discovering the world; they go to Michigan State University and the world kind of expands in front of them.  Then the other side would also be East Lansing, which shows the jazz and art festivals that go on over there.  So I call that one “Creative.”  That’s the creative side of the community.”

LAVERY:

"You’re probably used to the loud traffic noise right above you, but what about when it’s windy?  Do you have trouble with paint flying off your brush?”

WHITFIELD:

“Well...yes!  I found that out.  The wind really picks up and it’s funny because it might not be as windy away from the bridge, but as soon as you get under here you feel it really pick up.  The noise is really funny, because when it gets quiet, that’s when I really pay attention.”

LAVERY:

“You have to suffer for your art, don’t you?”

WHITFIELD:

“Oh yeah.  It’s a struggle.  I see this as my Sistine Chapel.  It’s just a gigantic project and it’s kind of awkward!”