FRANKLIN — Beginning this weekend, the quaint, historic downtown center of Franklin is going to get a bit of a modern, urban twist.
On May 4, Main Street Franklin is bringing acclaimed Detroit street artist MALT, aka BrownBagDetroit, to the village to create a large mural in front of a live crowd of onlookers. The mural will be located on the north side of the building that houses the Market Basket and is slated to stay up through Labor Day.
According to Bill Finnicum, a volunteer on MFS’s design committee, which helped to plan the mural project, MALT will begin to create the mural at around 1 p.m. May 4 as villagers and visitors watch and interact with the artist.
“What we’re having is a public art event, which was designed as a community celebration, kind of like a block party. It’s not a fundraiser — just kind of a social interaction and exposure for Franklin businesses,” said Finnicum.
MALT, who is described on his website as a self-taught artist living and working in Detroit, works largely with natural and forest-themed artwork, according to Finnicum. His work has been featured around the state, including at the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit, the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center and most recently, at Toast of Birmingham as part of the restaurant’s Art Garden exhibition.
“I don’t like to call his style ‘graffiti.’ I like the term urban art or street art better,” said Finnicum. “It’s beautiful, allegorical forest scenes and wildlife. It’s just really beautiful.”
To accompany the live art show, downtown Franklin will host a number of other promotions to draw residents and visitors to the scene, including music, malts and malt balls in honor of the artist, at Farmhouse Coffee and Ice Cream, and a taco and margarita bar at the Franklin Grill in celebration of the Cinco de Mayo weekend. Guests can visit the shops in the village center and check back in on MALT’s progress as he completes the mural over the course of the afternoon.
For some, the malted treats will come at no charge. In order to fund the project, MSF enlisted the help of the website Kickstarter, an online fundraising site designed to allow people the chance to “invest” in creative projects. Through the website, MSF was able to get all the money needed to bring the display to fruition, and those who donated will receive something of a return on their investment in the form of Farmhouse treats and time-lapse videos of the mural’s creation.
Instead of painting the mural directly on the side of the building, MSF is hanging large panels on the side of Market Basket, Finnicum said, which won’t be attached to the historic wall with any mechanical fasteners to ensure the building’s preservation. When the summer-long exhibition is done, the 8-by-20-foot mural will be dismantled and either sold, auctioned off, donated or otherwise reused.
The steps taken to protect the historic property aren’t enough to satisfy some residents, however. Since the beginning of the project’s inception eight months ago, members of the community group Keep Franklin Franklin have opposed the public art display. The debate over the project was among several issues the group has taken with MSF and its executive director, Vivian Carmody. The ongoing battle prompted Carmody to resign her position last month. She later reconsidered, after what she said was an “outpouring of support from villagers,” as well as the unanimous approval of the mural project by the Franklin Village Council.
Resident Diane Lake is one of the founding members of KFF and is opposed to the public art display over concern that the art will taint the downtown’s historic charm.
“To me, a large, very colorful mural painted on the side of (a) historic building detracts from the simple, rural character of the village,” said Lake in an email. “It may be a very beautiful artwork, but if we wouldn’t want it permanently, why would we want it for four months? Any significant projects like this should be part of a broader understanding of how we want to improve the appearance of our village center.”
In regards to the dispute over the display, Finnicum said the mural is only one of many public art exhibits to come to Franklin, including the Detroit Institute of Art’s Inside | Out program, the Liontown traveling statue exhibition and the MI Apple Trail program, all of which received warm receptions from villagers. He hopes that, once residents see the end result of the mural, they’ll welcome this display, too.
“What we feel is very exciting about this project is the juxtaposition of modern art against one of Michigan’s most historic districts. It’s an exciting way to engage the community, which is what we’re trying to do,” said Finnicum. “Had people not had a negative, knee-jerk reaction and inquired about it, I think the controversy never would’ve happened. When anything out of the ordinary happens in a community, people think the worst. Then, most just shrug and say, ‘Gee, I wish I had known.’ I hope the other 1 percent comes around when they see it.”
Make a Malt in Franklin will begin at 1 p.m. May 4 and last until the artwork is complete, likely later that afternoon or evening. For more information, visit www.mainstreetfranklinmi.com.
The Market Basket is located at 32654 Franklin Road in downtown Franklin.
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