Transforming billboards into roadside art exhibits | City Pulse – City Pulse

Transforming billboards into roadside art exhibits | City Pulse – City Pulse


Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane! It’s art from six highly creative Greater Lansing artists! 

Back for its 13th year is the annual Art in the Sky billboard contest, an annual submission-based public art project put together by the Arts Council of Greater Lansing and Adams Outdoor Advertising that takes the artwork of local artists and blows it up on full-size billboards for the entire city to enjoy. 

“The project was designed to create an opportunity for the arts to be accessible to everyone for free, and to highlight our community members and make their art available,” said Dawn Gorman, the council’s communications specialist. 

Art in the Sky, which debuted in 2011, was proposed in the council’s 2009 “cultural economic development plan.” 

The plan detailed several strategies to collaborate with local entities like Adams and help foster creativity in public spheres by implementing work from regional artists into placemaking initiatives. Another key part of the plan was to attract and retain talent in Lansing by highlighting output from the local arts and culture scene. Adams has been noteworthy for engaging in other experimental advertising campaigns, such as its other current run of billboards that solely feature close-up photographs of wide-eyed staring faces.   

As is the standard mantra of most public art projects, the goal for Art in the Sky specifically was to help beautify local spaces and raise awareness about talented artists residing in the Greater Lansing region. It also had the benefit of transforming vacant billboards, commonly considered to be eyesores, into temporary art pieces. Artists whose work is chosen are required to pay a $100 fee. If the artist cannot afford the fee, Gorman said the Arts Council is flexible with other options.   

Members of the Arts Council do not actually make the final choice of which six artists go up on the billboards. Instead that responsibility is deferred to a selection panel that is organized by the council. The panel consists of a cadre of local arts and cultural figures, and the primary question asked in the decision-making process is how well each piece would take to being displayed on a billboard. 

“The main thing is whether the art is readable when you’re driving in your car at 40 miles per hour. They’re looking at whether it translates well and the overall creativity in the design,” Gorman said. “We want to make sure that it’s clear when people drive by that they’re seeing art from a local artist.”

The Art in the Sky project remains visible throughout the entire year, with each selected artist in the cycle getting a two-month share. 

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