City planning commission continues conversation on prop construction
Hastings celebrates completion of city center mural
By Benjamin Simon
Dec 10 2021
J. Maizlish Mole has created public art in Portee and Edinburgh, Scotland, and St. Louis, Missouri. But none of those projects have garnered the daily interest it sparked by painting a mural on South Jefferson Street in Hastings, Mole, 47, said. “I have never worked on anything that has had that kind of public support,” he said in a speech after the mural was unveiled. On Thursday, December 2, Mole and the Thornapple Arts Council celebrated the new Union Block mural – a three-story black and white painting of the map of the United States. From 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., people stopped to admire the mural, warm up by a fire, and enjoy free tacos, coffee and donuts. For over two months, Mole spent almost every day dry on a wobbly scissor lift, spray painting and painting the mural. Every day at least 30 people, he estimated, stopped to talk or say something. They brought him drinks, called him “the painter man” and thanked him for his work. After months of listening to their compliments, Mole made it a priority to organize an event to thank donors and the community. He wanted the public to celebrate the mural that will anchor their downtown for decades to come. âPrimarily as an artist, your audience is your guest,â he said in a separate interview. âBut as a public artist, it’s the other way around. We were the guest of the public, and I wanted to present it with maximum generosity. I want people to feel that part of it is theirs. For months, Thornapple Arts Council CEO Megan Lavell had dreamed of bringing a large-scale mural to downtown Hastings. But she couldn’t put it in place – that is, until she befriended Mole. After living the last 10 years in London, Mole had recently moved to Hastings with his partner, Cloe Oliver. He had never created a mural before, but when Lavell mentioned it to him in passing, he jumped at the opportunity to introduce himself to the community through his artwork. He inspected all of the walls in downtown Hastings, returned home, and came up with the concept of a black and white painting of the United States. He sat with the image for three weeks before showing it to Lavell. Together, they pitched the idea to Tom Kramer, the owner of the century-old brick structure that once housed Secondhand Corners on South Jefferson and State Streets. Kramer signed the plan. And after the arts council raised $ 16,000 over a few weeks, Mole started the mural on September 14. With winter approaching, the days getting shorter and the weather starting to change, Mole said it was âa crazy time to start a mural of this Size.â Since mid-September he had been passing almost every hour. hours of sunshine, sometimes for 12 to 14 hours at a stretch, in front of this wall. “I hadn’t really planned, as an artist, to be in the street for so long and so visible,” he said. he said. “It’s not a performance art work, but there is an aspect that gets a bit performative because you’re out there with the street as an audience, for days and days, and weeks and months. And it adds up.â¦ It became a lot more of a public affair. When Mole started the project, he thought it would take four weeks. But quickly, the timeline grows. rainy days kept him inland and more importantly he became more captivated by the coastline. Over the weeks he dug more and more more to perfect the intricacies of the Florida Keys and the shore near New York City, where Mole went to art school for college. âI’m a bit of a fanatic perfectionist,â he said, âand I’m happy because I put a lot of time into it and got it right.â As the picture became more detailed, Mole found that the project had more of an impact on the audience. “There were fewer people looking at her and saying, ‘America’ and more people standing in front of her, and talking about where things were or pointing things out or telling me they were. had never really noticed that about that or that about that, âhe said. Some consider the completed mural to be a patriotic image. Some see it as an orientation map. Everyone has their own perception of the image. That, Mole said, is just the point. âYou can see it as a patriotic image or not,â he said. âBecause it’s not a flag. It’s just a map. Instead, he said, he wanted to create a conversation. âAll artwork is a bit of a confrontation, for me that’s how I see it,â he said. âAny art, whether it is a positive or negative confrontation, or whether it is a challenge or not, every time you interact with a work, there is an exchange that is conflicting … you have to read it, there has a physiological confrontation. âAfter weeks of being one of the most visible people in Hastings, Mole said he wasn’t sure what the next step was for him. He is considering the possibility of another mural, possibly in another. community, but details at this point, he said, are vague. For now, he’s just making up for lost time, cooking and sleeping. But he hasn’t forgotten the mural yet, and at the end of the interview his phone beeps. It’s his alarm clock. The screen reads “Auggie Wren”, an ode to the character from the movie “Smoke”, who takes a picture of his cigar store every morning. The alarm has been set to remind Mole to take his daily photo of the mural, and he has done so for the past few months. But the mural is finished and Mole has no more pictures. to take. Yet he won’t turn off the alarm. “I can’t bring myself to [do it],” he said.