MUSKEGON, Mich — The city of Muskegon is looking more colorful these days, after the completion of the Rails Murals project.
The four collections greet people on Seaway Drive between Sherman and Broadway as well as between Laketon and Hackley.
The artists are:
Dan Parker (Happy)
Ed Irmen (Flora and Fauna)
Ashley Nash (Pride and Opportunity)
Jimmy Cobb (Calm and Quiet)
The four of them were chosen to create the murals out of 16 artists who applied.
"That's all I need for you to do is just go underneath and get a little smile out of it," said Parker, who created the mural entitled Happy, which pays tribute to the diversity of the city.
"Different ages, occupations, you know, everything and just took a lot of pictures of a lot of people and just narrowed it down as much as I could to, you know, I need another 1,000 feet, I think to represent everybody, which would be good," said Parker.
The mural project was made possible thanks to a crowdfunding effort that raised $50,000 along with $50,000 in dedicated community development funds from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. That money was added to the Muskegon City Public Art Funds.
The work was actually inspired by Norton Shores businessman Jerry Wiersma, president of West MI Power Cleaning Equipment. Wiersma worked for several years to get the approval of track owner, CSX and track user, Genesee Wyoming Railroad to clean up the bridges.
"When he finally succeeded and got that done, I said, 'well, as long as you're doing that we might go put art up there,'" said Project Director Judith Hayner.
With the help of special equipment, the various pieces on the overpasses were able to become a reality.
"It's an esteem building opportunity for people to be proud of their community and proud of this place," said Hayner. "You've got to pay attention. There's so much happening in Muskegon and it's hard to keep up with it anymore."
Muskegon, Norton Shores and Muskegon Heights collaborated to make the project happen. They also worked with the Genesee Wyoming Railroad, individual and corporate philanthropists, and the MuskegonCity Public Art Initiative, a program of the Community Foundation for Muskegon County.
The rails project is the 4th one completed through the MuskegonCity Public Art Initiative. The organization is planning to finish two other projects this year: a sculpture for the new convention center and another mural set to go up in October.