International art project seeks to transform Flint’s image


FLINT, Mich. | Artists from Michigan and around the world are painting 50 murals in Flint to refocus the city’s image on art rather than the lead-tainted water crisis.

Joe Schipani, director of the Flint Public Art Project, told The Flint Journal that they aim to create 100 murals in the city by fall 2020.

Schipani said Flint’s image has been muddied by the events in 2014 that led to the city’s drinking water becoming contaminated with lead, and a Netflix series, “Flint Town,” about crime in the area. He hopes bringing international artists to town will encourage visitors to recognize Flint for other reasons.

“When you get all these big names coming here to do work, you gain an international presence,” Schipani said. “Hopefully people will start noticing us for our art and not our water.”

He added that inviting artists from around the world serves to bridge connections for local artists.

Simo Vibart from Argentina is among the artists whom Schipani welcomed to Flint.

The 29-year-old has painted murals at the Hispanic Tech Center and the walls at Totem Books downtown.

Vibart said the environmental crisis was all he knew of Flint, but that its real value is its people.

“I’ve been through a lot of cities in America and Flint is very different,” Vibart said. “I think the people here are really appreciative, very kind people who take the time to say they love that I’m here doing my work.”

Flint will host its first International Mural Festival in October to showcase the outdoor artwork across the city.

“I think this project helps the community out a lot,” Vibart said. “When people see this art, it will change at least a minute of their lives.”