Green. Blue. Gold. Yellow. Pink.

These are the colors that fill the trunk of my car. That stain the threads of new white jeans. That fly through the air to land on a clean, fresh, canvas.

In partnership with Dr. Asha Shajahan, of Beaumont Family Medicine, we built a public health campaign of sorts. It was the kind of project that had me thinking like a camp counselor: a problem-solver, a creative builder, a resourceful budget analyst. We connected with community members, drafted a solution, tried to pitch our ideas, prototyped, got some feedback, re-prototyped, pitched our ideas again (hopefully more convincingly), and iterated yet again. Needless to say, it was a very busy summer.

We started with a project that did with Beaumont earlier in the year with Dr. Shajahan about art and health. Then, we created an art installation to be displayed in community centers and health clinics around Detroit to help encourage fitness and healthy behaviors. My team built an installation for a clinic on the east side of Detroit, with a lot of help from MACC Development. Using my team’s art installation as a prototype for this project, we reworked the original design prompt to scale the project to Detroit as a whole:

“How might we expand the conversation around fitness, health, and art in Detroit?”

Dr. Shajahan introduced us to the Chandler Park community, a vibrant corner of Detroit with community centers and spirit. They invited us to bring our ideas around art and health to the 100-Year Anniversary Celebration taking place July 29, 2017. Remember when I said we pitched our ideas a few times? That’s because they were abstract and it took some effort to draw them out clearly enough for people to buy into our vision.

You’re probably wondering at this point what our project actually was (is). Back in the winter, we heard kids talk about three major things when they were asked about art, fitness, or some combination of the two.

  1. They like to bike. Biking to school is cool. Biking to a friend’s house is cool.
  2. They like bright colors. Neon. Glow in the dark. Anything requiring sunglasses.
  3. They like to do art where they are told they’re not supposed to. (They like graffiti.)

So we came up with the idea of using a bicycle as a paintbrush, of sorts. We figured that if you propped a regular old bike up on a stationary bike stand, saturated the back tire with brightly colored paint, and let kids hop on and take it for a spin, we could capture physical motion through splatters of paint on a canvas.

That worked so well with the MACC Development kids in our original installation, that we decided we could bring that concept in the form of an Art and Health booth at the 100-Year Anniversary Celebration. But there’s more.

In anticipation of nearly 1000 members of the Chandler Park community attending, of all ages and sizes, we were encouraged to think about other ways to mix bicycles and art in a way that involves a few people at a time. We tapped into our childhood memories, and figured out that with a little bit of sweat, and tears, we could build an apparatus that could harvest pedal power to drive four spin-art stations, involving a total of five kids/parents/grandparents at a time.

And so the ActiveArt pavilion at Chandler Park’s 100-Year Anniversary Celebration was born. We invite the community to help us create art installations that will be displayed in the Chandler Park, Healthy Detroit, and East Side Community Network buildings. July 29, from 10am to 2pm, come ride a bike or splatter some paint, all in the name of dissolving health disparities.

In designing art installations for both iterations of this partnership with Beaumont, we really wanted the community’s involvement in building art installations to be displayed in their spaces. We wanted to make this personal.

The overarching goal of this project is to spark a public health campaign in Detroit, using art, to help with health disparities such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity. Three Chandler Park community facilities, Chandler Park, East Side Community Network, and Healthy Detroit, will have art installations about art and fitness to display. Beaumont will have an opportunity to survey community members to gain a better understanding of how art and health are perceived in one Detroit neighborhood. A prospective 1000+ attendees at the Chandler Park Anniversary Celebration may interact with our health and art exhibit. And, in September of this year, an open panel discussion at the DIA’s Art and Health Symposium will expose the art and health communities to our work.

Looking forward, we hope a few kids will look at their rusty old bikes a little differently. And that a few adults will remember the rush of playing in their childhoods. We believe that personal touch can be enough to push some to more active behaviors.