Underneath East Lansing’s Division Street Parking Garage, students, faculty, and alumni of MSU’s Department of Art, Art History, and Design (AAHD) worked together to paint the third installment of the “Life is a Groovy Opportunity” mural with a goal of finishing in time for the 2022 East Lansing Art Festival.
Completed on May 21, the first day of the festival, the latest installment of the mural is helping breathe artistic life into the community.
Work on the mural first began in 2019 as a collaboration between AAHD, the East Lansing Downtown Development Authority, and the City of East Lansing. The “Life is a Groovy Opportunity” mural is set to be developed and installed in segments over a five-year period, and during the first three years of the project, different MSU artists have contributed their own artwork to the wall.
Two of those artists, Joan Bambery and Mei Kiengsiri, have worked together on the project for the past two years. They first met as undergraduate students at MSU during a study away program to New York City that was led by Associate Professor Ben Duke. After that trip, students from the study away program painted the Emergence mural, located in the back of MSU’s Kresge Art Center. This experience was both Bambery’s and Kiengsiri’s introduction to mural painting and led to their selection as artists on the “Life is a Groovy Opportunity” project, which also is led by Duke.
“Being out in the open and having the opportunity to paint for people and with people has been the best.”Mei Kiengsiri, Artist and MSU Alumnus
“Being out in the open and having the opportunity to paint for people and with people has been the best,” said Kiengsiri, who graduated from MSU with a BFA in Studio Art in 2021. “Having people come up to you and talk to you is great. We had people coming up to us every day from all generations and tell us their stories. One couple told us how they met here 20 years ago as college students, and now 20 years later things have changed.”
Pre-production work for the latest installment began in January 2022 and was led by Bambery, who graduated from MSU with a BFA in Studio Art in 2021. All the contributing artists — Duke, Bambery, Kiengsiri, Kiel Darling, Adeline Newmann, and Shirin Abedinirad — uploaded their artwork to a shared folder. Bambery then compiled all designs in Photoshop to create a mural mockup that represented all the artists equally while maintaining artistic flow.
“It was a huge honor [to create the mockup] because the images that each artist submitted are so personal to them and they are truly a creation from their heart,” Bambery said. “Each image submitted was treated with the utmost respect, and that was the goal for this. When you have everyone on one page, everyone has to be represented equally.”
The full composition of the latest installment of the mural was completed in March, after which production began. Once the mural painting was in full swing, artists were out every day to work on their designs. They also helped each other on their designs, making the mural a truly collaborative project.