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The League’s Matt Bach at Brush Park – his new favorite park in his favorite city of Flint and near the newly restored and reopened Capital Theatre. #WeLoveWhereYouLive

“We Love Where You Live” is at the heart of the Michigan Municipal League’s mission. To celebrate the power and uniqueness of Michigan communities, the League is creating a #WeLoveWhereYouLive social media campaign.

How Does the Campaign Work?
Throughout the month of July, we are encouraging members to go on Facebook or Twitter and post a photo and short description of something they love in their community, using the hashtag #WeLoveWhereYouLive. These pics can highlight a wide range of cool things in your community. Here’s a few examples:

  • A selfie in your favorite coffee shop
  • A pic of you walking your dog along your favorite street
  • A snapshot of a wonderfully restored building in your downtown
  • A photo of people enjoying a favorite park, music, or art event

Use your imagination! There are bound to be plenty of photo-ops in your community.

What’s in it for You?
First, you get to show off your community to a big audience on social media. And second, we hope to feature some of your amazing photos in the League’s magazine, The Review. Then your community’s story will reach a statewide audience of city officials, legislators, and business people.

So. get your brain in photo mode! Start thinking about how to frame a great shot of something that makes your community special. Then post those pics from July 1 all the way to the end of the month. And remember to use the hashtag #WeLoveWhereYouLive.

We can’t wait to see what develops!

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If a group of community-minded young people comes knocking on city hall’s door, you might want to pay close attention. When Jackson Young Professionals (JxnYP) did the knocking to float the idea for a new community event, the answer was a resounding yes. Recently, I got to see the result when I strolled the streets of downtown Jackson. Dubbed Bright Walls, the exciting mural festival went on for days, and created amazing public art that will last for years.

Thirteen artists from across the country and as far away as Mexico, Brazil, and The Netherlands spent six days transforming blank building walls into spectacular works of art. Big crowds of spectators watched in admiration as outlined designs gradually grew into colorful, unique creations. To make Bright Walls truly a community event, JxnYP spiced things up with food, live music, and daily themes. I was there for Rock The Block day, which featured local radio station K105.3 on site, a local artist “mini-mural” contest, and a live concert featuring Your Generation in Concertâ„¢. When dark clouds threatened to drench festival-goers assembling for the outdoor concert, JxnYP quickly pivoted and found an indoor location – the nearby Michigan Theatre.The new location didn’t seem to dampen spirits at all as the auditorium quickly filled up with an enthusiastic crowd.

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Bright Walls team and artists.  Photo courtesy of Maury Page Photography.

The Festival Started with LOVE

If it wasn’t for Clay McAndrews and Leslie Youndahl’s penchant for traveling and taking pictures of murals, the Bright Walls festival might never have come to light. Clay and Leslie – both members of Jackson Young Professionals – had been dating for a while and Clay decided it was time to pop the question. In true mural lover fashion, he searched for a mural festival and found one that had just concluded in Boston. But the mural that would serve as the backdrop for his proposal had to be extra special. When he spotted one that said LOVE in giant letters, he knew that was the ideal site. Leslie said yes, and the seeds for Jackson’s mural festival were planted.

“I got to thinking that we’ve made so many great memories photographing murals, it would be great to create a mural festival so other people can create their own memories,” said Clay, a creative consultant at Consumers Energy.

Bright Walls-abstract-300x200Clay pitched the idea for a mural festival to JxnYP and they loved it! Since promoting Jackson as a great place to live, work, and play is at the heart of the group’s mission, the event was a perfect fit. Clay became a co-director of Bright Walls along with Jaqueline Austin, owner and events director of Think Jackson, a placemaking company. The two of them assembled a team of 12 Jackson Young Professionals with diverse skill sets. Clay is a graphic designer, Jacqueline brought events and urban planning skills, one team member works for the Downtown Development Authority, a few work for nonprofits, and there was even a banker to help with finance.

“We had a well-rounded team that worked really well together,” said Jacqueline. “They went from not knowing each other very well in the beginning to becoming great friends and a team.”

Bright Walls-Bloom-2-200x300It Continued with a Convincing Plan

To ensure the event’s success, JxnYP spent a month putting together a very detailed plan, which included reading the city’s master plan to make sure they were lining up with the city’s goals. They also put together a presentation to lay out their plans for the festival and convince the city and other sponsors to support their endeavor.

“We knew going in that we needed to have the city as a partner,” said Jacqueline. “The city was so excited they jumped on board day one. We couldn’t have asked for more enthusiasm. They supported us in any way they could, from supplying street barricades, to helping us arrange for tents, to advice.”

The response was very positive from the business community, as well. Soon, JxnYP had raised over $130,000 from sponsors ranging from Consumers Energy and Flagstar Bank to Grand River Brewery and JTV. Some are already hoping for a repeat performance.

“I think the festival surprised the community. We had no idea what kind of draw this would be and it surpassed all expectations in every way,” said Bart Hawley, owner of JTV, a huge supporter of the Jackson community. “The Jackson Young Professionals planned, organized, and operated this event perfectly.  We can’t wait to do this again!”

Bright Walls-big bird-300x200Artists Brought the Creative Fire

To help assemble just the right team of mural artists, Clay called on Jeremiah Britton, his former classmate at Central Michigan University. Jeremiah, originally from Jackson, is now a well known artist in New York and twice has painted in the Murals in the Market festival at Detroit’s Eastern Market. With his contacts and knowledge of the community, he chose artists that he knew Jackson residents would appreciate. Britton booked seven of the artists, and Clay booked five.

Each artist brought a unique style to their work. Using paint buckets and spray cans, they developed creations covering the gamut from nature and abstract art to typography and mystical creatures. Judging from the responses they’ve received, Clay and Jeremiah’s artist choices were very much in tune with the community.

“The impact is phenomenal. I’ve heard nothing but fantastic reviews from the community and business owners,” said Clay. “It’s great for Jackson, and leaves the community with free art.”

“It’s getting people downtown and seeing Jackson in a new light,” added Jacqueline. “The fact that a group our size was able to pull off this huge event showed there are people who really care about the community.”

Want to know the rest of Clay and Leslie’s love story? They recently got married and had wedding photos taken … where else? … in front of one of the Bright Walls murals!

For more information and photos, visit Bright Walls Jackson.

To see artist interviews and videos of the event, visit JTV.

 

 

By Luke Forrest

Enabling Better Places coverWalkable downtowns and main streets are highly desirable qualities in today’s communities. But how do you move your community in that direction?

A good place to start is by updating your zoning code.

On Sept. 21, at the League’s annual Convention in Grand Rapids, we will debut a new resource for community leaders: Enabling Better Places: User’s Guide to Zoning Reform. This publication is a how-to manual of practical, realizable steps for local governments to take to make their communities more walkable and economically successful.  It’s the product of nearly two years of collaboration between the League, Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU), Michigan Association of Planning (MAP), and Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).

The League, MAP, and MEDC are proud that Michigan is serving as the proving ground for the Project for Code Reform, CNU’s national initiative to support cities and towns as they reform outdated zoning codes to promote walkable places. CNU worked with its Michigan partners to create the new guide, focusing on downtowns and main streets in small and medium-sized towns and cities in Michigan. The cities of Albion, Kalamazoo, Muskegon, Saginaw, and Traverse City served as test markets. But the lessons learned are easily translated to towns and cities in other parts of the state and the country. The guide was made possible by financial support from partner organizations and technical support from nationally acclaimed code experts from DPZ CoDESIGN, Ferrell Madden, and PlaceMakers, LLC.

The guide—which is linked to MEDC’s Redevelopment Ready Communities® program—focuses on the “how” of the process of code reform rather than the “what.” It gives communities wide latitude to create solutions that are unique to their needs and circumstances. The emphasis is on incremental change to enable a community to adapt and digest an update in a single neighborhood or district before moving on to other reforms. This helps governments test approaches, build political will, and gain community support as they go.

Other project partners for Enabling Better Places include AARP Livable Communities, The Richard H. Driehaus Prize at the University of Notre Dame for Contributions to the Public Realm, and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

 

PodcastBanner4-212x167Since January, the Michigan Municipal League has been filling the airwaves with our exciting new podcast series, We Love Where You Live. The episodes have always been on our Podcasts page, but now we’ve made it even easier to catch your favorite episodes by making them available on iTunes and Google Play. Just log on and search for “Michigan Municipal League” or “We Love Where You Live.”

Each week, we bring you insightful interviews on city innovations and politics, delve into the challenges of local government finance, share our members’ amazing accomplishments, and take a fresh look at stories in the League’s magazine, The Review. Recent topics have included placemaking, the state of the American city, financial challenges facing Michigan communities, ethical public leadership, talent attraction, the gender balance, and much more.

Listen in on your favorite device – smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop – any time it’s convenient for you!

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The Economics of Place segments feature people on the cutting edge of making cities better.

Host: Dan Gilmartin, CEO & executive director, Michigan Municipal League

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On the SaveMICity segments, we talk about the financial challenges facing Michigan local governments.

Host: Tony Minghine, deputy executive director & COO, Michigan Municipal League

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The Michigan Politics, Huh? segments look at Lansing politics from the perspective of a novice. What’s happening in Lansing that might impact your community?

Host: Matt Bach, director of communications, Michigan Municipal League

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The Review Déjà vu segments take a fresh look at stories that have appeared in the League’s magazine, The Review.

Host: Lisa Donovan, The Review magazine editor, Michigan Municipal League

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The Limelight segments highlight the incredible work being done at the local level, the stories behind the people that do it, and topics that matter to them.

Host: Emily Kieliszewski, membership engagement specialist, Michigan Municipal League.