By SUE SUCHYTA
DEARBORN – The Pockets of Perception student design team and supporters gathered Aug. 26 to dedicate the latest Community Fund-sponsored mural, “We Are One Community,” on the Blick building, 14339 Michigan Ave.
The event was hosted by the Dearborn Community Fund, the POP design team, Blick Art Materials, and the East Dearborn Downtown Development Authority.
The POP design team program, begun in 2010, brings together teams of high school students to create a collaborative piece of public art.
Each student receives a $500 stipend for their participation, which includes mural concept collaboration and managing the entire process. Along the way, the students gain valuable skills and form lasting friendships.
Cristina Sheppard-Decius, manager of the Dearborn Downtown Development Authorities, said it is amazing what the students can do.
“When you give them the opportunity to bring something to life, I think they really go above and beyond what our expectations are,” she said.
Sheppard-Decius said the project supports Dearborn’s art and culture, as well as its downtown.
She said the next Community Fund art sponsorship is call Zap Art, which, in September, will have artists decorating electrical utility boxes in downtown west Dearborn, along Village Drive, south of Wagner Place.
EmmaJean Woodyard, executive director of the Dearborn Community Fund, said the goals of the POP teams are to encourage multicultural understanding and cooperation, to involve young people in creative problem-solving tasks through the arts, to provide experience in the business side of the arts process, to encourage youth investment in the community, to engage the community in the process, and to create public art for permanent installation.
“Today’s mural dedication is a celebration to acknowledge the outstanding talent, creativity and hard work by the students of the POP 2021 teams, its leaders, and an acknowledgement of all those who support it,” Woodyard said.
Woodyard thanked city officials for their support, as well as the Dearborn DDA, the Ford Motor Co. Fund, the Dawn and Mary Kosch Foundation, CultureSource, the grant funding agency of the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, Robert W. Curtis, Isa Mae Osborne and other community members.
Johanna Seidel, Dearborn Community Fund board president, thanked the POP advisory team of Susan Briggs, Mike Kirk and Robert Curtis.
“The Dearborn Community Fund vision is to provide enrichment opportunities that enhance the life of Dearborn residents, while maintaining Dearborn as a creative and dynamic city,” she said. “This POP project has been successful in carrying out this vision, and engaging and encouraging young people to be part of it.”
Woodyard said the recent POP mural was planned and completed in eight weeks, and the students had to learn to work together and come up with a concept which the entire team supported, as well as fulfilled the city’s design criteria.
Sunshine Durant said POP is her “passion project.”
“I would do this 100 percent of the time except for teaching,” she said. “I love these projects, and my favorite part about these projects is I cannot envision what they are going to
make. These kids come up with crazy stuff, and I love it.”
Durant said she likes to involve professional artists, so she had muralist Zach Curtis become involved as a mentor, and stencil artist Eno Laget work with the POP team.
She said Curtis was contracted to teach the students about spray paint and murals.
“He really loved it, because he got to work with people,” Durant said. “He never gets to do that; he’s kind of a lone wolf when he is working.
“So, he really got into it. He was only contracted to come one day and work with the kids, and he came every single day to work with these kids, because they were so involved.”
She said she was proud of the POP team.
“They did a great job,” Durant said. “It looks like a lot of fun, but it’s a lot of hard work.”
Wayne State University art major and past POP participant Amar Haidar of Dearborn, who helped with the team building and organization for the mural, said being part of three POP projects changed her from a shy to an outgoing person.
“Going to college, I know how to interact with my peers and everybody,” she said. “This project has brought a lot of confidence, and how to talk to and collaborate with everybody.”
Jack Durant joked that his favorite part of the project was scaring his mother, Sunshine Durant, when he was up on the scissor lift.
“My favorite part was definitely working with everyone,” he said. “You meet some friends, and I made memories – it was nice.”
The high school students on this summer’s POP team were: Wijdan Alghouli, Avery Andrews, Elissar Atoui, Steelie Dowgiallo, Jack Durant and Danya Jamalaldin, all of Dearborn; and high school students Maren Kerr of Allen Park, Sonte Curtis of Inkster and Madeline Stanczak of Plymouth.
City Councilwoman Leslie Herrick said she was impressed with the POP team’s creativity.
“We’re known to be an inclusive, diverse city, but sometimes you have to help build those bridges, and the POP team does that, as well,” she said.
City Councilwoman Erin Byrnes said it is really heartwarming to see kids from Dearborn and beyond come together to create a piece of art like the mural on the Blick building.
“In the east end, in particular, we’ve seen such a vibrant arts culture taking hold, and I just want to see it grow,” she said. “I think this is part of that process. It’s a beautiful mural, and if you drive by, you’ll catch a glimpse of it, but I would encourage folks to walk by. You’ll see so many little beautiful details when you really take a closer look at it.”
For more information about POP design teams, see their social media pages on Facebook and Instagram.