Two awesome teen murals unveiled in Ypsilanti in just one week’s time

On last night’s episode of the Saturday Six Pack, I talked with Ypsi Community Schools (YCS) art teacher Lynne Settles, an Ypsi High student by the name of Paris, Jackson-based artist Douglas Jones, and local historian Matt Siegfried about a new mural that, thanks to their tireless efforts, and the efforts of a good many YCS students, just went up at 432 Harriet Street, on the side of Currie’s barbershop. While audio of our interview probably won’t be up for a few more days, I wanted to share this photo of their mural, and remind everyone that there will be a formal unveiling this Wednesday, November 11, at 11:00 AM. If you have the time, please make it a point to stop by and talk with Lynne, Paris, Matt, Douglas, and the dozens of YCS students who volunteered their time and talent to help commemorate the life and accomplishments of HP Jacobs, a runaway slave from Alabama who made his way to Ypsilanti, became a janitor at what is now Eastern Michigan University, and then went on to found both a church and a school for black children here, before heading back south after the Civil War, where he served in the Mississippi State Senate, helped found what is now Jackson State University, and, at the age of 65, become a doctor.


Interestingly, this isn’t the only teen mural being unveiled in Ypsi this week. Just yesterday, the teen group affiliated with the Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights (WICIR) formally unveiled their mural at 410 West Michigan Avenue, on the side of Dos Hermanos Market. [I’d invited representatives from this group to be on last night’s episode of the Saturday Six Pack as well, but, unfortunately, they couldn’t make it.] Here’s their mural, which, I was told by one of the organizers, contains various symbols intended to convey the “feelings, past experiences, and current struggles” of the young men and women from mixed immigration status families who designed and pained the piece. [The teens who created this mural were assisted by Costa Rican artist Alejandro Chinchilla.]


[The above mural was made possible in part thanks to a $1,000 grant from the Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation.]

Public art that arises organically out of the local community is almost always a good thing. And that’s especially true when it’s our young people who are making it happen. In a world where people of all ages are increasingly isolated, and kids seem to feel less and less a part of the communities they inhabit, I think it’s incredible that we have these two groups of young people here in Ypsi who are willing not only to engage publicly, but to claim public space and make it known that they have both voices and talent. Our community is stronger because of their contributions… Here’s hoping that others follow their lead and make the decision not just to move passively through our city, but to actively contribute and help make it a better place.

[note: I don’t want to make more work for folks, but I’m thinking it would be really cool if there were QR codes on these murals so that people, if they wanted to, could bring audio tracks up on there phones and hear the voices of the young people involved talking about their work.]

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  1. Anonymous
    Posted November 9, 2015 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Do people really use QR codes? If so, I think it would be really cool to have audio tracks associated with each of these. Maybe, at some point, there could even be a public art map online, showing all of our murals.

  2. Lyle
    Posted November 9, 2015 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    There’s already one work of art in town with a QR code.

  3. Posted November 9, 2015 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Just wanted to give a quick shout out to Doug Jones. Doug is an extremely active figure here in Jackson, and not just in the arts community. He, with the work of a lot of other artists and friends, have really started to make Jackson a place where art can and does happen. He engages the community and his work makes people think. Best of all, Doug is just a really nice guy. I would love to see more Jackson-Ypsilanti cross projects, as I believe the two towns have a quite a bit in common.

  4. Lynne
    Posted November 9, 2015 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Both murals are gorgeous and a welcome addition to our community, imho

  5. K.
    Posted November 9, 2015 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    What does the bloody broken branch refer to?

  6. Meta
    Posted November 10, 2015 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    The Ann Arbor News covered the WICIR mural today.

    The 18-foot by 14-foot mural depicts a tree with the world’s countries’ flags as leaves, and the roots wrapping around a globe also act as hands that cradle the earth.

    “In general we want to have folks think about where they come from, where do we all come from, think about why everyone is villainizing us,” Valdez says. “Whose land is this? How did society become what it is? All that has been in the conversation in the design process and in the implementation.”

    Read more:

    (Don’t read the comments.)

  7. Posted November 10, 2015 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    @Anon – “Maybe, at some point, there could even be a public art map online, showing all of our murals.”

    That’s easily done — here’s a localwiki page mapping these two murals, the WS Commons, and the Corner Health Center’s mural:

    People who know more about the murals than I should feel free to expand the individual pages.

  8. facebook stalker
    Posted November 11, 2015 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Matt Siegfried responds to the MLive article shared above.

    “Unfortunately there are quite a few inaccuracies in this piece (that could have been easily avoided with a few questions). Currie’s was not built in 1890, it is not the oldest African-American owned building in Ypsi, HP Jacobs certainly was not born in Mississippi, nor did he ‘receive his free papers and move with his family to Ypsilanti.” He forged his free papers, stole his master’s horses and escaped to Ypsilanti. All the author had to do is read one several paragraph article and he would have gotten these facts correct.”

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