Jackson’s Glidden Parker Mural Project

Community: City of Jackson
Population: 10,000+

The City of Jackson restored a historic, lighted stained-glass mural by famed artist Glidden Parker, relocated it downtown, and housed it within a new multi-purpose structure. This structure is the focal point of a current downtown placemaking effort in Jackson’s newly completed urban core park as part of the Governor’s Anchor Initiative.

The structure’s design not only protects the 9-by-28-foot mural in a climate-controlled facility, but includes an art gallery space. The angled roofing protects and defines the viewing area for the mural and functions as a performance area for various events, serving both an aesthetic and acoustic purpose. This project successfully preserved a piece of art that has great cultural, and historic significance in Jackson, as the mural was displayed for decades within the building that once stood on the park site before its demolition. This project creates a space for the appreciation and performance of art downtown.


Any community interested in developing a “placemaking” project that creates an experience for area residents and visitors within its inner core can use many of the strategies the City of Jackson employed with the Glidden Parker Mural project, including: 1. Creating citizen-led coalitions and committees to spearhead grant applications and garner public support for the project. 2. Fostering relationships between the private and public sector by giving everyone interested in the project a “seat at the table.” 3. Lowering public funds needed for the project by garnering grants and foundation donations once there is suitable buy-in from the community and businesses. Following two successful grant applications from the National Endowment for the Arts ($50,000) and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs ($75,000), the project then served as the impetus for the creation of a Public Arts Commission in 2015. The commission’s goal is to not only support the Glidden Parker project but also foster long-term collaboration and curation efforts for public art within the community. Support from the community allowed the City to raise more than $430,000 from grants, foundations and corporate donors – funding more than 70 percent of the project without City taxpayer dollars.

Creativity and Originality:

This project is a model of creativity and originality, embodied through the continually evolving design, funding mechanisms and individuals involved in ensuring its success. The Glidden Parker Mural itself was originally commissioned through a National Endowment for the Arts grant, which highlights how the preservation of this historic piece of art was paramount. Through the inclusion of more citizens on the project, and coverage through the local paper and City-sponsored media releases and newsletters, excitement grew and the project evolved from a stand-alone brick enclosure to an art exhibit and performance facility. It has become a model of community collaboration.

Community Impact:

This project serves as a keystone placemaking project of Jackson’s downtown. The project led to the creation of the Jackson Public Art Commission (JPAC) and serves as the start of a larger public art initiative to fill the community with attractive, engaging works of public art, while also curating and preserving the public art the community already possesses. The project was undertaken simultaneously with a $22 million public infrastructure improvement effort that upgraded utilities, improved streetscaping, and provided enhanced spaces for future public art displays around the urban core park and throughout Jackson’s downtown area. The community has embraced the downtown initiative and this project, which also helped in attracting developers to repurpose the adjoining, shuttered Hayes Hotel building, and spurred an estimated $75 million worth of future private-sector economic development in downtown parcels surrounding the project. The structure will not only complete the park, but also recognizes a significant nostalgic focal point downtown: Consumers Energy has been a major employer in Jackson for more than a century, and the mural, which depicts the history of energy in the United States, was commissioned by and once displayed in the former CE headquarters where the park and the project structure now rest. In effect, this project uses the synergy of collaborative visual and performing arts to add to the aesthetic of the downtown area, to draw residents and visitors to the area, and to encourage pride in Jackson's history and cultural offerings. Throughout the process of garnering public support and finally the construction of the building, relationships between the City and its business and community leaders were strengthened and improved. The project itself, and not just the final project, served as a catalyst of community support and appreciation between the public, private, and non-profit sectors.

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Project Multimedia:

Powerpoint Presentation


CP Federal City Square from John Willis on Vimeo.