The Mural Plays of Flint

or '3 reasons you *MUST* make plans this August to visit Flint, MI'
CeauxArtwork, Flint Public Art Project, 2019

Hands down. If you are an arts organization in the United States, you *MUST* cancel your plans one weekend this August and experience the Flint Mural Plays before they are gone forever on August 31. Of Flint’s massive 180+ mural gallery, 25 have been turned into theatrical performances by the Flint Rep Theater and Flint Public Art Project for you to enjoy by foot, car, or by bike. The plays are audio performances and meant to be enjoyed while you visually experience each mural the play is based on. The six month Flint Public Art Project (FPAP) mural festival is going on right now and I flew up to Flint in late July to check in with the festival and experience the plays for myself. What I found stunned and thrilled me. I immediately recognized the mural plays as a powerful example of how murals can serve both a community of art lovers as well as a community of artists. After experiencing the Flint Mural Plays, I’ve listed three reasons that seeing this for yourself is worth the disruption to your plans in August. Book your flight!

1. you will be transported in ways you never expected

The mural above, by New Orleans based artist CeauxArtwork, was completed in 2019. The mural play that it inspired is titled ‘May Love Fill the Music’ by Hunter Bell and Ebony Vines. The quiet and empty parking lot that hosts this mural in Flint’s CarriageTown district becomes an unsuspecting launching pad for a wild adventure once the play unfolds. An older woman acts as a guide to a much younger space traveler. Together they explore the culture and history of Flint’s Ojibwe people. Many elements of the story were supported by the various details in the mural. The acting and sound design kept me engaged with their journey as they traveled to different eras and experienced various sounds and people of the past. At the moment it ended, I was hooked. I found myself admiring the mural in a new way and it was hard to believe that it existed 3 years before the play was written.  I couldn’t wait to find the next mural play and embark on another adventure!

2. this is the beginning of a new collaboration between murals and performing arts

The ability of Performing Arts to engineer an experience combined with the majestic presence of a mural in the community produces something truly unique. In this new hybrid of art forms, the mural  becomes a vehicle for the many talents of script writing, sound design, music, directing, and acting in ways that don’t exist today. On their own, murals are vibrant additions to a community that beautify and inspire. I love how the Mural Plays turn the murals into a stage for a performance. From here, I only see this flourishing in the months and years to come as communities experiment by taking the concept of mural plays further. 

3. the ability to activate and re-activate public spaces

Another intriguing aspect to all of this is how creativity from the community can now be employed in a public space for the purpose of activation. As I’ve mentioned, the Flint Mural Plays end in August. What happens then? Hopefully new ideas will form, new performances will take shape, and new programming will be added that re-activate the spaces of Flint again and again. If not mural plays, perhaps scavenger hunts? If not scavenger hunts, then maybe some other unique form of entertainment and education that hasn’t been imagined yet? With each new variation, the purpose of the mural is reinforced:  to activate, to cause someone to pause and notice, and to inspire people of all ages and backgrounds. This ability to re-activate murals  gives us insight into the role that murals can play in a community, and the relationship that community members will have with them as they serve to teach and entertain.

The four galleries of the mural plays

The 25 Mural Plays have been divided into four individual galleries in the PixelStix app. If you are in Flint, you will see the Mural Plays group under our Maps or just search for their names, #downtown, #eastside, #carriagetown, or #northside. Both the #downtown and #carriagetown galleries are walk-able but it is advised to tour the #eastside and #northside galleries by car. 

Mural Plays in Pixelstix Maps
#downtown Mural Plays
#eastside Mural Plays
#carriagetown Mural Plays
#northside Mural Plays
two ways to experience a mural play
launch with a Map-tap

If you Map-Tap any of the Ps on a map it will launch a PixelStix page that allows you to ‘View Content’. This action loads the Mural Play and you’ll want to scroll down and select ‘Listen in Browser’ to begin the play. 

Tip: this Map-Tap feature is perfect for parking your car with a great view of the mural and using the Bluetooth system to listen to the play through your car’s speakers. 

touch your phone to the mural plaque

As with all PixelStix-equipped murals, open the PixelStix app, tap the large P, and touch your phone to the plaque to load the Mural Play experience. Once loaded, you’ll want to scroll down and select ‘Listen in Browser’ to begin the play. 

iPhone users: Your NFC scanner is in the nose of your phone
Android users: Your NFC scanner is *usually* in the middle-back of your phone

About the flint mural plays

The performing artists that produced these amazing plays allow their work to be enjoyed for a limited time just like plays on Broadway! The Flint Mural Plays are only available until August 31, of 2021. The Mural Plays are a production of the Flint Repertory Theatre. The murals have been lovingly curated by the Flint Public Art Project over the past 4 years and created by a variety of local, national and international artists. All 180+ murals that makeup the Flint Public Art Project gallery are equipped with PixelStix plaques for learning about the artists and local communities that host them. Time is running out! Go see them before they are gone!

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