2017-06-08 / Front Page

Many hands needed for fire station art

By Patti Brandt Burgess
Of The Enterprise staff


LIAM SWEENEY, 7, and Maeve Sweeney, 11, paint tiles for the Many Hands Together Making Art project. LIAM SWEENEY, 7, and Maeve Sweeney, 11, paint tiles for the Many Hands Together Making Art project. Wanted: 252 people willing to make their mark on a 6-inch square tile and eventually on the walls of the new Leland and Lake Leelanau fire stations.

They don’t need to be artistic or even especially creative. They just need to be willing to show up and paint.

Beginning today and continuing Friday and Saturday, a group of local women hopes to get to the magic number of 252 tiles, which is how many they’ve calculated will be needed to fill an 8-foot by 5-foot wall at the Leland station and a 6-foot by 4-foot wall at the Lake Leelanau station.

“A big part of our goal is to just get everyone involved,” said Amy Radford of Lake Leelanau, one of the project’s organizers. “We really want to stress that this is a community effort and really bring everyone together.”


THE MANY HANDS Together group is looking for people to paint tiles that will decorate walls at Leland Township’s two new fire halls. From left are project organizers Debbie Lamson, Michelle White, Chief Dan Besson, Sally Meese and Amy Radford. THE MANY HANDS Together group is looking for people to paint tiles that will decorate walls at Leland Township’s two new fire halls. From left are project organizers Debbie Lamson, Michelle White, Chief Dan Besson, Sally Meese and Amy Radford. All of the needed art supplies are being provided, with painting parties being held from 3-8 p.m. today at the Old Art Building, from 3-9 p.m. Friday at the Leland fire station, and from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. Saturday at the Lake Leelanau station.

There is a suggested donation of $3 per tile or $5 per family.

The group has also reached out to area artists to help with the painting. But organizers are encouraging everyone to stop in this weekend, pick up a brush and use their imaginations.

Many of those heading up the project are artists — but not all.

“It’s a great way to get involved, to be a part of a small group and to get to know the community,” said Patty Barnes of Northport, who is not an artist.

The end product will be a mosaic of tiles made by a variety of people in the community — children and retirees, long-time residents and weekend visitors, artists and those who haven’t got a creative bone in their body.

Participants don’t have to live in Leland Township to participate.

The tiles will be sprayed with a clear acrylic coating and will be installed by the volunteer group and dedicated at open houses held at each fire station in September.

Those who’ve contributed a tile won’t know which station their work will end up in and will have to attend the events to find them, Radford said.

The concept for the murals came from a Bible study group when a few women started talking about art and community. One of the women, Lake Leelanau resident Sally Meese, ran an art studio in Detroit for homeless and needy people.

She said she misses that.

“We’re just a pop-up group in the community that came up with this idea,” Meese said.

And the idea began to grow.

“When Sally talked to me about this I was instantly excited,” said Debbie Lamson, a part-time Lake Leelanau resident and retired middle school art teacher. “I really miss working with kids and with the community. This was an opportunity to participate in something with the community that I love.”

When the project was started, retired fire Chief Rick Royston was still on the job. When new Chief Dan Besson took over he saw the project was penciled in on the calendar.

“He has jumped on board and has been so gracious,” Radford said.

Besson lives in Cleveland Township with his wife, Jennifer; daughter Emma, a 7th-grader; and Abigail, 15, who attends Michigan Lutheran Seminary in Saginaw.

“My family and I certainly support the arts,” said Besson, who says he’s an amateur photographer. Besson is using photos he took of his fire and rescue staff at a training exercise to decorate the new stations.

Committee member Michelle White of Leland enjoys any time she can be around art in Leelanau County.

“Being able to participate and volunteer — this is really exciting,” White said.

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