My city.

I wish more people referred to this future small town as "my city." It denotes ownership, responsibility and loyalty. It means I will defend it, honor it, and keep its children safe. A city doesn’t belong to the government or rich folk; it belongs to those who stand up and claim it. If you see a problem that you know how to solve, solve it! You don’t need permission. I’ve chosen to take ownership of one small little problem that has such an easy and cheap remedy. Blight.

Every were you look in this town you see plywood, charred wood and broken glass. Children are playing in yards filled with garbage, overgrown weeds and empty gin bottles. Busted windows, abandoned store fronts and closed schools sit silently. How can you expect children to grow in a city that looks like a war zone and expect them to turn out to be well- nurtured, well-adjusted citizens?

You can't.

Public art brightens futures because it makes a visual impact on the city as a whole. It covers graffiti, reduces crime, and attracts investment and potential homeowners. It shows citizens that change "is" happening. They can see it. It might seem like such a small thing to just paint on the side of building, but it's not. Everyone in town benefits from it and can enjoy it, everyone from crack heads to social elites. I know it does; they tell me all the time.

Art is a industry that Saginaw can capitalize on to bring new jobs and new people to our city. All over the world art is used to rebuild cities; it is the first step in redevelopment, and this is proven fact! Our city council knows this, city planers know this, the developers know this, and, most of all, the artists know this.

So why doesn't Saginaw put as much as it can into the Arts?

Good question. A very good question. You should ask your city leaders every time you see them. Just ask them, "Since we all know art has been proven to rebuild cities, why aren't you talking about it at every city council meeting?" I've met with members of foundations, community groups, churches, and neighborhood associations—and even senators—and for the most part, all the art in this city is still payed for the artists who make the work. There are those who help, when they can, or when they're allowed, and to them I am very grateful.

Artists are inspired by the blight and social decay; it fuels us like wood to the fire. We are not afraid of dilapidation; it has its own special beauty. Artists only want a cheap place to work and live, and they are not too concerned about the comforts that most are accustom to: a bit of heat, some running water and light is all we need. This makes Saginaw the perfect place to sprout a new artist community because the one thing Saginaw does have is alot of cheap places to live and work.

No matter how much money you spend on a city doing things to improve its image, nothing works better than public art. It can turn eyesores into landmarks, and change a city that is known for crime into a city that is known for its art. This is already happening, and the artists need more help and more funding. We aren't asking for handouts. We want work, and what we do is worth every dime spent on it.

We can't hold our breath waiting for plants to reopen, a college to go in downtown, or a new pollution plant. Only Art will save our city now!

Eric R. Schantz
Artist and Creative Developer