#Underthebridge project, breaking down barriers
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If you've ever traveled between downtown Lansing and E. Lansing via Michigan Ave., you know that the area that separates the two isn't the most inviting. Based on a variety of public-opinion-gathering efforts, (the Growth Corridor charrettes of the Mid-Michigan Program for Greater Sustainability and the visioning sessions for the Red Cedar Renaissance project, to name a few), revealed that for many, the U.S. 127 underpass is seen as more of a barrier than a gateway between these two central Metro-Lansing urban areas.
Taking a LEAP
The Michigan Avenue Corridor Improvement Authorities of the City of Lansing, Lansing Township and the City of East Lansing reviewed the polls and took LEAP's findings to heart, agreeing that a change to the Corridor is necessary. The goal–to make the #underthebridge area an inviting one–one where people can enjoy walking and biking and where art and creativity are the common thread.
A project is born
And so a plan was devised and a project was born–#underthebridge–bringing area artists and planners together to create a space of connection rather than one of division. Working alongside LEAP, the Arts Council made a call for artists, and sought out those specializing in murals. After much deliberation, Lansing artist and Arts Council member, Brian Whitfield was chosen as the project lead.
A community effort
Whitfield's proposal envisions a passageway that includes murals, green space, artistic lighting and other creative/artistic features. It also includes community involvement. The next round of planning is to provide a variety of events that will ensure the project reflects the needs and lives of the neighbors on both sides of the bridge and the community at large. "It is very important that the community is involved and feels connected to the project," said Whitfield. "We want them to feel they have a voice and that they matter. because at the end of the day, the art is all about them."
While the project has lots of creative power, it's in need of a little financial steam, and that's where everyone and anyone can help make a difference. A crowdfunding campaign through Patronicity.com was launched, and if the goal of $50,000 is reached, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation has agreed to match the amount as part of their "Public Spaces, Community Places" initiative.
Keith Lambert, LEAP's tri-county development manager and lead on the #underthebridge project, says the project is important for Greater Lansing's economic growth. "This project is all about the fusion of two urban cities through art and community connection – a true placemaking effort that is inextricably tied to economic development and growth opportunities, now more than ever, in a very mobile world." Bob Trezise, LEAP CEO, notes, "Improving the vibrancy of the Lansing region's economic spine -- the Michigan Avenue Corridor -- is a necessity if we are to succeed on the global stage in competing for diverse workforce talent and prospective businesses."
The Arts Council couldn't agree more and is pleased to see the arts becoming a constant consideration when speaking about growth and development in the region and across the globe. "We are very proud to partner with LEAP on this project," says Deborah E. Mikula, Arts Council executive director. "It is so important to the creative economy movement; putting art at the center of this placemaking effort will really make a difference on the Michigan Avenue corridor."
Want to learn more and add your support? Hop on line and head over to Patronicity to check the project out. You'll find pictures, video, some sketches and many more details about the project and its goal to engage and excite Lansingites and breathe new life into Metro Lansing.