Members of SVSU’s Art 433 class have created 10 painted panels that will be installed on the exterior of the Bayshire Building in Bay City on Wednesday, May 2, at 2 p.m.
The murals depict historical stories and figures from Bay City, including Annie Edison Taylor, “Queen of the Mist,” who went over Niagara Falls in a barrel; Hilda Mueller, an early aviatrix and boat racer; a parade of Civil War veterans under fireworks; and the Leopard Lady being visited by the wall-climbing Human Fly.
Michael Mosher, the Art 433 professor and a former San Francisco muralist, taught the class of nine students.
“The first part of the process is political,” Mosher said. “We began coordinating with the Bay City Downtown Development Manager, Candace Bales, in the summer of 2017. We also worked with SVSU alum Tara Welch, the Director of Studio 23 Art Center, and Jim Cogswell, the Bayshire Building owner.”
After the location for the mural was chosen, the research and design process began.
“Eric Jylha came in to talk to students about Bay City history,” Mosher said. “We also did subsequent research online and in books. Then, students sketched and refined their designs from small painted maquette to scale. Students then completed the physical process of cutting the plywood and scrollwork to the shape of the imagery, preparing the board, painting the imagery and varnishing it.”
To Mosher, community murals are the most challenging and high-stakes art form, as they are often symbolic for their communities.
“Students haven’t worked in this medium before, but it can have a real impact on people and their daily lives and (their) sense of community and place,” Mosher said. “This location in Bay City is especially daunting due to the high visibility.”
General studies senior Carly Peil found working on the mural to be rewarding.
“I had never done any mural work, and, for me, the technical stuff of actually painting was the most challenging,” Peil said. “Most of the students in the class are art majors, so catching up with everyone else was difficult. It all worked out in the end. I’m really proud of how all of the panels look together and how mine in particular turned out.”
Peil’s panel depicts Hilda Mueller riding in a boat with a plane in the background.
“Hilda was a 21-year-old girl from Bay City who in the ‘50s set a bunch of world records for both boat racing and flying planes,” Peil said. “She was the first woman in Bay City to fly a plane from James Clements airport, which is still there today.”
For Peil, painting the mural has been symbolic of her pursuit of adventure as she transitions from working at a Bay City coffee shop to a new job on the city’s tall ship.
“For me, it’s cool that the person I chose to paint is a woman from Bay City who did all these things women didn’t normally do,” Peil said. “Now, I’m going on this journey in my life and doing something more on the adventurous side, too.”
Peil’s creative experience gave her a newfound respect for murals and the significance they have for their communities.
“There’s so much research and work that goes into creating a mural,” Peil said. “The entire process opened my eyes to what murals mean to communities, places and people.”