REO Town’s 'Art Attack' Bends The Rules Making Public Art

Aug 27, 2017

On Saturday August 26th, the streets of REO Town in Lansing were shut down for the 7th Annual Art Attack competition. WKAR’s Jamie Paisley spoke with the artists contending to take 1st prize.


Eric Schantz finds his mural area in kind of a noisy spot during REO Town’s Art Attack. Right next to one of the more popular food vendors, Pie Hole Pizza Truck. Still, he keeps working on his mural.

"Yeah, this is just an owl influenced by the eclipse we just had. So I'm doing a kinda like a nebula in space, with the double eclipse." say Schantz. It’s his first time competing, since he just moved to Lansing a few months ago. "Actually I moved to Lansing for an art commission and I liked the city so much. People keep hiring me, so I'm just gonna stay here for a bit and see how it goes."

Joy Baldwin of Reach Art Studio & co-organizer of Art Attack, is thrilled by this artistic turn out. "And the artists are just so diverse," says Baldwin. "I mean we have like, a couple High School student teams, we have a war veteran. You know, a lot of different, I love that we have a lot of different artists that all have unique kinds of work going on. It's really exciting for me."

Svitlana Martynjuk decided to incorporate the symbol of Lansing’s REO Town, a circular gear, into her work. "I don't want it to, you know, to be a bunch of colors, because I'm [an] abstract artist. So, it's at the same time, it's a little hard to make it relate to people. So I thought, you know, I can incorporate gears and I thought, well gears can be flowers. They also can look like sun or a moon and my thing kinda is 'Midnight in REO Town' so I thought it would be a good fit."

According to the other organizer of REO Town’s Art Attack, Ryan Wert, this event is something that started 7 years ago with a budget of just $500. "It was super small. It was all bands that owed me favors. This is actually the first time we've closed the street. So previously, it's always been in the - what's now the Riverview Church parking lot and used to be The Cadillac Club parking lot."

For this year’s Art Attack, it took quite a while to finally settle on what aspect of REO Town would be the focus of the art. Much of that was due to red tape. "So murals in the bike lanes are the competition and we've tried for the last four-or-five years to do something with some kind of lasting effect." says Wert. "So, picnic tables in front of Good Truckin' Diner, and Saddleback, and the public seating area. We did trash cans for the parks department. And this year with murals in the bike lanes, it's kind of... we started with doing crosswalks, is what we wanted to do. And then this is an M-DOT thoroughfare, so legally we can't do it. Then we got to turn lanes and kind of the same issue. Then we got to parking spots, but we were dealing with oil, and gas and everything leaking onto them. And then finally settled on bike lanes, but it kind of slipped in on the idea that they're new enough in Lansing that there aren't really rules. And so Andy Kilpatrick, our transportation engineer was like 'You know, I think we can do this because we don’t have any regulations about it yet. And either it’ll be successful and this will be okay, or it’ll be a disaster and no one will ever do it again.' So it's sort of every city department and bike entity and so we kind of had to work with to kind of figure out exactly what the smart way to do this was and how we don't make the roads slippery or wash away after a few days, or whatever."

After a day of painting, music, and food, it’s time to announce the winner of Art Attack. "Alright we had 11 fantastic artists." says the unintroduced announcer from the main stage. "We've tallied the votes and in first place, our friend who has done artwork over at Potter's Mill and our pub patio, Mr. Eric Schantz. Congratulations to our competitors, you can pick up your checks at the bar!"

You can check out Eric Schantz’s Eclipse Owl or any of the other 10 bike lane murals any time you’d like on South Washington Avenue in REO Town Lansing.