Nonprofit To Beautify South Haven With Murals

Dec 21, 2017

The artists of the South Haven Area Mural Project (Sh-amp) stand in front of their first completed mural at Rock 'N' Road Cycle. From left to right: Kayla Wyszynski-Ridley, Sam Dustin, and Kelly Gleeson.
Credit Rebecca Thiele/WMUK

Earlier this month, South Haven artists unveiled the first of many murals that are meant to help beautify the city. It’s part of a nonprofit that started last year called Sh-amp — South Haven Area Mural Project. 


Kayla Wyszynski-Ridley painted the first mural on the side of Rock ‘N’ Road Cycle on Broadway Street.  She says she often uses her family as inspiration for her work. The kid in the mural is based on a photo of one of her nephews.

Wyszynski-Ridley plans to make three more murals on that same wall.

“It will showcase different southwest Michigan landscapes to kind of hone-in on where his road could take him in the future,” she said.

Watch a time-lapse video of the making of the mural:

Even a tourist town like South Haven can have its drab spots — like near parking lots or dumpsters. These are the kinds of places Sh-amp is trying to paint.

Wyszynski-Ridley says other buildings they’ve found just have blank, boring walls.

“Why not put something beautiful up there that different people get to pass by every day on their way to work?” she said.

We want to paint the whole town, that's what we keep saying

The project is funded through crowd-sourcing. Artist Sam Dustin says right now, the murals cost about $2,000 to make — which includes a public opening.

She says the group owes a lot to their local paint shop, Lakeshore Paint, for donating many of the supplies.

Dustin says murals have a way of bringing people together. They’re not in a museum or a gallery — they’re out in the open where everyone can see them.

“The public tends to interact with them," she said. "They take selfies in front of them, they put them on Instagram because of their gigantic size. So they get a lot of attention.”

Artist Kelly Gleason explains how the finished mural at Black River Tavern will have fish and other aquatic life
Credit Rebecca Thiele/WMUK

Artist Kelly Gleeson started working on a mural at Black River Tavern. The wall she’s painting is down some side stairs where the tavern has its music and comedy acts.

“It’s called the River Bottom, so I kind of wanted to bring that in to connection with the art on the outside. So I’m doing fish of Michigan and different kind of underwater seascape of the Black River," she said.

"We kind of go in conjunction with the owners of the business as well as our own creative ideas.”

Gleeson says the public has been so excited about the murals that sometimes they’re a little distracting.

“While painting sometimes, I know I go into a zone and then people will talk to me — and I can’t paint and talk at the same time," she said. "So it’s kind of like trying to count and have a conversation. It’s almost impossible.”

“But I’m still so thankful that they do stop," adds Wyszynski-Ridley. "It shows they’re taking notice of what we’re doing and they want to be a part of it.”

Sh-amp hopes to involve the public even more in the future. The group wants to do a paint-by-numbers mural with local residents as well as create a map so people can do a walking tour of the murals.

Wyszynski-Ridleysays doing this art is rewarding work.

“It’s pretty wonderful to come back to your community — or whatever community you decide to be as home — and leave that lasting impact," she said. "Like you were a part of that and that’s going to last for years to come.”

Dustin says the project has allowed her to meet artists that she never would have met otherwise. And they do need artists — eventually the group wants to be able to do five murals a year.

“This is a big goal, but we can make it happen," said Dustin. "We want to paint the whole town, that’s what we keep saying.”