Alley Activations Provide Economic Opportunity for Downtown Mason

We don’t usually think of graffiti as art. Instead, we view it as vandalism of our streets and cities. In our defense, often times graffiti is used to deface property. However, the city of Mason is choosing to support the painting of a few of its buildings as a form of public art to enhance the city and drive economic opportunities.

With the help of the Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP), Mayor Russell Whipple, PNC Foundation representatives and regional placemaking advocates, Mason has been awarded a public art grant. As a result, the city has been able to support The Art Alleys project, in which five artists will turn the city’s alleys into lively and exciting venues for local events.

Investing in public art is historically a difficult task. Many people don’t want to see their cities being drawn on or added to. Take the Eiffel Tower for example. As its construction began in Paris, more than 300 Parisian artists published protests against what is now one of the most iconic structures in the world. The artists thought that the building of the tower was “useless and monstrous” (Huffington Post). Of course, Mason’s Art Alleys project is not quite the same as the construction of the Eiffel Tower, but it is important to understand that such art can be more beneficial to a city than we could ever imagine.

Incorporating art into a city is great for aesthetic purposes, but the benefits are often intangible. Convincing city leaders to invest in public art has never been easy, especially in tough economic times. However, LEAP President and CEO Bob Trezise said “investment in public art is proven to increase economic opportunity.” With city projects come jobs, and with a beautiful city comes visitors. “This project is another demonstration of our region’s innovation approach for economic development,” Trezise said.

The Art Alleys will be a creative enhancement for downtown Mason and hopefully will draw visitors. The artists for the project will convert “underutilized public spaces into attractive assets through which both residents and visitors will experience our community in a whole new way,” said Timothy Salisbury, PNC regional president for mid-Michigan.

For more information on LEAP’s Public Arts for Communities Grant, visit


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