Turn billboards into roadside art exhibits


Look, up there in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane! It’s the art of six very creative artists from Greater Lansing!

Returning for its 13th year is the annual Art in the Sky Billboard Competition, an annual submission-based public art project set up by the Greater Lansing Arts Council and Adams Outdoor Advertising that takes on works of local artists and blasts them to the hilt. large billboards for the whole town to enjoy.

“The project was designed to create an opportunity for the arts to be available to everyone for free, and to showcase members of our community and make their art available,” said council communications specialist Dawn Gorman.

Art in the Sky, which debuted in 2011, was proposed in the council’s 2009 “cultural economic development plan”.

The plan detailed several strategies to collaborate with local entities like Adams and help foster creativity in public spheres by implementing the work of regional artists in place-making initiatives. Another key part of the plan was to attract and retain talent to Lansing by showcasing the output of the local arts and culture scene. Adams has been notable for engaging in other experimental ad campaigns, such as his other current series of billboards that feature nothing but close-up photographs of wide-eyed faces.

As is the standard mantra of most public art projects, the goal of Art in the Sky was specifically to help beautify local spaces and bring awareness to the talented artists residing in the Greater Lansing area. . He also had the added benefit of turning vacant billboards, usually considered eyesores, into temporary works of art. Artists whose work is selected must pay a $100 fee. If the artist cannot afford the fee, Gorman said the Arts Council is flexible with other options.

The members of the Arts Council do not make the final choice of the six artists who appear on the billboards. Instead, this responsibility is given to a selection committee organized by the board. The panel is made up of a cadre of local arts and culture figures, and the main question posed in the decision-making process is how well each piece could be displayed on a billboard.

“The main thing is whether the art is readable when you’re driving your car at 40 miles per hour. They’re looking at whether that translates well and the overall creativity in the design,” Gorman said. ensure it’s clear when people drive by that they’re seeing art from a local artist.”

The Art in the Sky project remains visible throughout the year, with each artist selected in the cycle receiving a two-month share.

In 2020, Adams and the Arts Council began using billboards with digital screens, which allow an unlimited cycle of images. In previous years, Adams was responsible for taking selected pieces for Art in the Sky and printing them onto a massive 672 square foot sheet of vinyl which would then be displayed on billboards across the city.

“The advantage of going digital is that artists don’t have their work on a single billboard on Cedar Street. Now their works of art are everywhere at the same time. Their art can be shown on Michigan Avenue, in Frandor, or near the airport — anywhere Adams has space,” Gorman said.

Each year, a wide variety of artistic styles are represented in the Art in the Sky billboard competition. The various art forms that have found their way onto one of the display boards include photography, sculpture, woodcut, watercolor painting – pretty much everything is on the table.

“I always get excited when I’m walking around in my car with my daughter, I’m like, ‘Look, there’s one of our billboards! It’s really great to see the larger-than-life artwork like that and it’s also a great experience for the artists, they’re very excited,” Gorman said.

With over a decade of history behind it, Art in the Sky is one of the oldest public art initiatives that has become an annual local tradition. It’s an early example of the current trend of accessible art exhibits gaining popularity in Lansing, such as the Under the Stacks mural festival or the Art Path outdoor gallery along the Lansing River Trail.

“There has been a huge audience explosion in Greater Lansing in recent years. We see so many murals going up, sculptures are being created regularly. The impact for Greater Lansing is global, it’s that the city is more vibrant and creative. It makes our city livelier and more beautiful, and shows that we are open to creativity,” Gorman said. “It’s about creating the opportunity to see art in unexpected places.”

To consult the art in the sky signpostsvisit: lansingarts.org/programs/billboard-project

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William E. Bennett