MICHIGAN CITY – Thirty-six new pieces of public art have been installed throughout the Uptown Arts District in the form of large, canvas banners affixed to decorative light fixtures.

The Michigan City Mainstreet Association’s recent open call for art yielded many submissions from local artists – amateur and professional, children and adults.

“The goal was to showcase local talent and give people a sense of pride through participation in the Uptown Arts District,” said MCMA president Abby May. “We also wanted to add something beautiful and vibrant and creative in the arts district.”

Volunteers from the MCMA counted all the unpopulated light poles in the downtown area, and set out to fill the ones that had proper brackets with banners. Some of the poles currently are decorated with black-and-white Uptown Arts District banners, and others with banners touting the Michigan City Promise Scholarship.

But even after the first round of art submissions, many downtown light poles remain unpopulated; and May hopes the project will be extended to include another open call for art. In the meantime, the MCMA also purchased 30 more Uptown Arts District banners to hang.

“It was a really awesome experience to be a part of and put together," Ryan Laughlin, chairman of the banner project and past MCMA president, said. "It created an opportunity for everyone in the community to have a piece of the downtown that they could really feel like is theirs. Even if they don’t own property in the downtown, they can say, ‘That is my downtown'.”

He reflected on the many hours he and other volunteers from the MCMA and the city put into gaining city approval for the project, writing the terms of the grant that helped fund the banners, conducting the open call, reviewing individual submissions, converting selections into the proper format, and installing the finished products – all on a tight deadline.

“These types of passion projects by volunteers are what bring a sense of community, and we’re proud to showcase the artwork of Michigan City residents in the Uptown Arts District,” May said. “We got submissions from students, teachers – people who are not professional artists, but who want to have their creativity be part of the fabric of the community.”

The banner project was created, curated and brought to fruition by MCMA, a volunteer nonprofit organization that hosts seven major community events throughout the year, and offers block party and music grants to those wishing to provide programming in the Uptown Arts District.

Proceeds raised at the Shelf Ice Brew Fest each winter, and the Swale Music Fest each summer are used to fund both types of grants, as well as the MCMA’s five free events: the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, First Friday Summer Series, Taste of Michigan City, Flame & Flair Halloween Festival, and South Shore Mini Maker Faire partner event.

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