Flint’s scenery just got an international touch.
Through the graffiti art of world-renown muralists, various locations around the city will receive eye-catching makeovers in the coming days.
One site adding to the community’s visual appeal is a downtown-area cultural attraction.
Located at 620 West Court St., Totem Books is now the proud canvas of Brazil’s Binho Ribeiro and England’s Nomad Clan artistry. The murals, commissioned through a partnership with the Flint Public Art Project, are designed to
help capture city spirit while showcasing creative flair from the perspectives of talented
tourists of the area.
Ribeiro’s earlier local work includes the public mural of a large octopus on a structure about a mile away from Totem Books. Painted during a previous visit, the notable octopus landmark impressed Joe Schipani, executive director of the Flint Public Art Project.
“Joe is a fantastic, loyal customer of Totem and when he had the opportunity to bring Binho here again, he jumped at it,” says Tyler Bailey, the book shop’s manager. A resulting competition solicited renderings by artists from anywhere in the world, who wanted to create a mural at Totem. Responses included artists from Flint, throughout Michigan, and internationally, Bailey says. Ultimately, community members attending a
2nd Friday Artwalk chose the winning muralist from three finalists selected by the bookstore.
Bailey describes Ribeiro’s painting as a “very cool, bookshelf-inspired mural” featuring Ribeiro’s trademark owl image and books of different colors and sizes.
“It was really exciting,” Bailey says. “I don’t think the magnitude of the project hit everyone, myself included, until he started painting. It’s amazing what he can do with open space.”
“We really enjoy the collaborative process with the Greater Flint Arts Council and the Flint Public Art Project. It was a fantastic opportunity to continue the beautification of this Court Street corridor.”
Inspired by the spirit of reinvention embodied at Totem, a former convenience store that was converted into a cultural center and café, Schipani agrees that the mural effort complements the neighborhood.
“The whole idea of taking the party store and turning it into something really wonderful, it really aligned with our mission of taking vacant spaces and giving people an idea of what they can be like,” says Schipani.
The new murals will return the favor of Totem’s efforts and possibly attract customers, he says: “It’s a good way to give back and help get people through the doors.”
Recognized as among top graffiti artists in the world, Ribeiro and Nomad Clan have created murals in several countries. A duo of women, Nomad Clan arrived in Flint after a separate invitation from Ribeiro’s and will begin its painting after visiting residents in the community.
“They wanted to get here and get to know the city, go around and talk to people that live here, because their whole perspective with this mural is that it’s for the people of Flint,” Bailey says. “We’re the ones who will be here to look at it when they’re off to their next destination.”
Both Ribeiro and Nomad Clan will be guests at a free event from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 20 at the bookstore. They will discuss their work and impressions of the city.
“Being able to add two murals to this space was just a fantastic opportunity for both the store and for, really, the people of Flint,” adds Bailey.
“I just think it’s valuable and special that there are things like this happening because it really characterizes the people here,” he says. “It’s through collaboration that development happens, and working together in tandem with each other can create new, beautiful and exciting things for the city. I think this is a shining example of collaborative effort. There would be a lot more beauty in the world if there was more collaboration.”