January 8, 2022

Sidewalk poetry project kicks off around Lansing

If you’ve been walking around Lansing in the past two weeks, you might have seen something on the sidewalk: poetry. WKAR’s Jamie Paisley has more on this public art, the Lansing Sidewalk Poetry Project.

Imagine going for a bite to eat in Lansing Old Town or catching a game at the Cooley Law School stadium, but there are things on the ground that grab your attention. It’s not chalk or anything, it’s words carved into the pavement itself. This is the Lansing Sidewalk Poetry project.

“This is a grant from the city of Lansing”, specifies Rulaine stokes, president of the Lansing Poetry Club, at the opening gala held at the Lansing Art Gallery downtown, “through the Lansing Economic Development Corporation and the Arts Council of Greater Lansing to obtain poems about the place , on connecting people to specifically four neighborhoods in Lansing: Old Town, REO Town, Stadium District and East Side. We got 76 submissions and then we had a panel of judges who worked to try to narrow it down to 8 poems . And then we had our winners, then the whole process of burning the poems on the sidewalk. So it took nine months. “

Even before this official launch of the Lansing Sidewalk Poetry project, the mayor of Lansing Andy Schor had a poetic meeting with a colleague from the town hall. “We took the Grab-and-Go, the new shuttle, to Old Town for lunch and it was on the sidewalk.” remembers Mayor Schor. “It was really exciting. You know, you talk about it, you hear about it, and you see it out there on the street. So that was awesome. It’s a big part of who we are in Lansing. artists, we are cultural, we love to share about ourselves and now you can walk down the street and see poetry in the street. It’s part of the atmosphere. “

Another of the organizers of the Sidewalk Poetry project is Lansing’s first poet laureate, Dennis hinrichsen. Hinrichsen didn’t know how this project would go, either in terms of inputs… or where through Lansing the poetry would go physically. “No, that was – there was no way to actually identify the places, before identifying the winners, because that’s the place. So the poem determined the place. So a time we had the 8 winners and got my tape measure and walked around town looking for clean concrete and tried to match the poem to the spot. , when you look at a poem on the Shiawassee Street Bridge, you look at the bridge. When you read a poem about the Old Town and its Hispanic Heritage History and Brenke’s Fish Ladder, you stand on the ladder at Brenke’s fish. “

The poet whose work is now on permanent display at the Brenke Fish Scale in Lansing Old Town is Cruz Villarreal. The engraving of his poem, Mi Pueblo, was something he certainly wasn’t going to miss when the time came. “Dennis calls me and says ‘Hey man! They’re putting your poem in!’,” Villareal said. “And so I slam the breaks, turn around, walk over to the ladder, and yeah. Oh my God, that’s when it all, you know, like, wow, it really happens. actually put my poem in stone. I’m in stone, man! ” It was easy to find out why the old town is important to Villarreal. “Any community action that has happened in Lansing originated there. It was where Latinos came together. This is where anything, any kind of activism or any problem that needed to be addressed is. born in the old town, north side, right? That’s why the poem This is why the poem is in Spanish and English. It’s a marriage. That Latin heritage over there, that story over there. Now I feel like it’s not going to go away. “

Click here to visit an interactive version of the map below showing the locations and poets information on the 8 Lansing Sidewalk Poetry locations found across Lansing.

Map of the 8 locations of the Lansing Sidewalk Poetry project.


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