Turning billboards into roadside art exhibits

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SKYLER ASHLEY

Look, up there in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane! This is the art of six highly creative artists from Grand Lansing!

Returning for its 13th year, the annual Art in the Sky Billboard Competition, an annual submission-based public art project put together by the Arts Council of Greater Lansing and Adams Outdoor Advertising which takes the works. art from local artists and explodes them thoroughly. sizeable billboards for the whole city to enjoy.

“The project was designed to create an opportunity for the arts to be accessible to everyone for free, and to showcase members of our community and make their art available,” said Dawn Gorman, Council Communications Specialist.

Art in the Sky, which debuted in 2011, was proposed in the council’s “Cultural Economic Development Plan” of 2009.

The plan detailed several strategies to collaborate with local entities like Adams and help foster creativity in public spheres by implementing the work of regional artists in place creation initiatives. Another key part of the plan was to attract and retain talent in Lansing by showcasing the output of the local arts and culture scene. Adams was notable for engaging in other experimental advertising campaigns, such as his other current series of billboards that feature only close-up photographs of wide-eyed faces.

As is the standard mantra for most public art projects, the goal of Art in the Sky was specifically to help beautify local spaces and educate talented artists residing in the Greater Lansing area. It also had the benefit of turning vacant billboards, generally considered to be horrors, into temporary works of art. Artists whose work is chosen are required to pay a fee of $ 100. If the artist can’t afford the fees, Gorman said the Arts Council is flexible with other options.

The members of the Arts Council do not really make the final choice of the six artists who will appear on the billboards. Instead, this responsibility is vested in a selection committee organized by the board. The panel is made up of a group of local artistic and cultural figures, and the main question asked in the decision-making process is to what extent each piece would be presented on a poster board.

“The bottom line is whether the art is readable when you drive your car at 40 miles per hour. They are looking at whether this translates well and the overall creativity in the design, ”said Gorman. “We want to make sure it’s clear when people walk past that they are seeing a local artist’s art. “

The Art in the Sky project remains visible throughout the year, with each artist selected in the cycle getting a two-month share.

In 2020, Adams and the Arts Council began using billboards with digital screens, which allow for an unlimited cycle of images. In previous years, Adams was responsible for taking the selected pieces for Art in the Sky and printing them each onto a huge 672-square-foot vinyl sheet that would then be displayed on billboards across town.

“The good thing about going digital is that artists don‘t just have their work on one billboard on Cedar Street. Now their works are everywhere at the same time. Their art can take place on Michigan Avenue, in Frandor, or near the airport – wherever Adams has space, ”Gorman said.

Each year, a wide variety of artistic styles are represented in the Art in the Sky Billboard Competition. The various art forms that have ended up on one of the poster boards include photography, sculpture, woodblock printing, watercolor painting – pretty much everything is on the table.

“I’m always excited when I drive around in my car with my daughter, I say, ‘Look, there’s one of our billboards! “It’s really great to see the larger than life artwork like that and it’s a great experience for the artists too, they are very excited,” said Gorman.

With over a decade of history behind it, Art in the Sky is one of the oldest public art initiatives that has grown into an annual local tradition. This is a prime example of the current trend of accessible art exhibits that are growing in popularity in Lansing, such as the Below the Stacks mural festival or the open-air Art Path gallery located along the River Trail. Lansing.

“There has been such an explosion of audiences in Greater Lansing in recent years. You see so many murals going up, sculptures created regularly. The overall impact for Greater Lansing is that the city is more dynamic and creative. It makes our city more alive and beautiful, and shows that we are open to creativity, ”said Gorman. “It’s about creating the opportunity to see art in unexpected places. “

To consult the Art in the sky signposts, visit: lansingarts.org/programs/billboard-project

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