If you have walked or driven under the South Michigan Street railroad viaduct in the last month, you have likely noticed a colorful addition to the area.  Plymouth’s Center Township Trustee, Amy Knapp, in partnership with the Heartland Artists, has installed a mural depicting an interactive, vibrant, Plymouth-centric scene intended to beautify and energize the downtown area.

On the west viaduct wall at the intersection of Michigan and Pennsylvania Streets, the mural features a vivid rural scene recognizable to Plymouth residents along with a warm “Welcome to Plymouth” greeting.  A friendly Blueberry Hank stands prominently in the foreground, while a warm, setting (or rising?) sun shines over a deep red barn and green-striped farm fields.  Colorful hot air balloons, corn stalks, a barn quilt, and a basket of overturned blueberries are also among the other references depicted in the painting. According to Kietzman, the use of colors from the viaduct and stripes along the road helped the mural take on a vintage style with deep, rich hues and stylized features typical in the 1940s and 1950s travel postcards.

The mural invites visitors to be a part of the art by posing with Blueberry Hank and giving him a ‘high five’.  “We worked closely with Amy to find a design that represents our wonderful town, and one that our community can have a little fun with,” says Anna Kietzman, one of the muralists and President of the Heartland Artists.   After several renderings by Kietzman and artist Erica Coffing, a rural scene with the cheerful Blueberry Festival mascot was selected as the final design by Knapp and Center Township board members, Keith Hammonds, Jim Baldwin, and Bruce Knapp, who also approved the spending. 

The entire project included seven artists and the final phase was completed on October 28th.  Kathy Zentz, Erica Coffing, Cindy Carter, Jon Miller, Clark deFluiter, Evie Schwenk, and Anna Kietzman collectively contributed nearly 150 hours to the project.  Kietzman states, “Overall we have received an outpouring of supportive feedback from the community, especially while we were painting.  Honking, smiling faces, and shouts of “Thank you!” from motorists and pedestrians demonstrated that we were doing a good thing.  When teenagers walk by and give you props, you know you’re making a difference.”

(Left to right) Heartland Artists Kathy Zentz, Cindy Carter, Evelyn Schwenk, and Anna Kietman join Center Township Trustee, Amy Knapp, and board members Keith Hammonds and Jim Baldwin in front of the newly complete interactive mural under the Michigan Street viaduct.  The group collaborated to create a beautification project in town. 

The City of Plymouth has been integral to making this project happen, as they recognize a need for creative placemaking and beautification in town. “The mural is one of many projects Center township has budgeted to enhance our community.  The Heartland artists did a wonderful job.  The mural beautifies the south gateway into downtown Plymouth.  The colors used to accentuate the viaduct that was painted a few years ago,” says Center Township Trustee, Amy Knapp.  Public art is designed to transform and energize public spaces, and research shows it engages the public, promotes community pride, attracts tourists, and increases economic growth.

In addition to the Center Township Trustee and the Heartland Artists, this project was made possible by several other generous businesses and individuals in the community.  Josh Milner of American Clean Pro volunteered his power washing services and time to prep all the mural surfaces, with Bowen Printing providing the water source.  Paint for the stripes along Michigan Street was donated by Lowes Home Improvement in Plymouth, and paint for the scenic mural was donated by Sherwin Williams in Plymouth.  If you or your business are interested in having a mural installed, please contact Anna Kietzman at 574-316-0264 or email heartlandartistsgallery@gmail.com.

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