SWARTZ CREEK — Let there be no mistake: Swartz Creek is Dragon Country. And if anyone traveling on Elms Road doesn’t know that, they will when they pass under the Interstate 69 overpass.
Inspired by the bounty of public art in the City of Flint, artist Susan Hagen sought to bring a little of that creative expression to the Swartz Creek community.
The result is a new mural under the bridge over Elms Road, north of Miller Road. The mural features a trio of dragons and the words, “Beyond Thy Bridge There Be Dragons.”
Hagen was one of five members of the Swartz Creek Art Guild who worked for two weeks to complete the work. Others were Carol Hickey, Nancy Olds, Pat Munsell and Jeanine Smith.
“They were doing so many great murals in Flint,” Hagen said. “So, I requested a mini grant through the Share Art Genesee Program to do some murals in Swartz Creek.”
According to the Share Art Genesee website, shareartgenesee.org, the grant program was created to help grassroots arts organizations transform communities into “vibrant, inclusive destinations with a unique sense of place.”
“Art can be a powerful way for multiple narratives to be heard, seen and included in the knowledge and experiences of a community,” according to the Share Art Genesee website.
Hagen was awarded a $4,000 grant to do three murals in Swartz Creek. She plans to enlist the Swartz Creek High School arts classes in creating the second, at a location to be determined. The third will come in the spring.
For the first mural, Hagen also drew inspiration from a sign that once graced her garden gate, which read, “Beyond this gate there be dragons.”
“When we were talking about ideas, I had thought of that and thought, ‘You know, right there is the Welcome to Swartz Creek sign on the corner of Elms and Miller,’ so it just kind of worked out well,” she said. “And because we’re the Swartz Creek Dragons, it made sense to do dragons out there.”
The concept changed a few times from idea to completed work. The original plan was to paint a brick wall, but the rock theme made it look more like a castle, where one might find a dragon.
When painting began, the artists worked from a sketch that included just two dragons. However, at the last minute, they decided to add a baby dragon hatching from an egg, Hagen said.
One of the adult dragons, painted in turquoise and orange, is flying. The other, done in blue, is holding onto the wall.
“We have a cloud expert at the Guild, Nancy Olds, and we had to call her to come do our clouds for us,” Hagen said.
The saying is written in red and white, the Swartz Creek Dragons colors.
The mural measures 100 feet long and takes up the full length of the wall.
The artists worked for two weeks in the mornings to avoid the extreme heat.
“There’s a small sidewalk under the bridge, and we managed to stay on it, although we did cross the road occasionally to take a look at our progress,” Hagen said. “We would be up on ladders on the sidewalk and it certainly would be nerve-wracking to be at the top of an 8-foot ladder and have traffic zooming by.
“What was really nice, though, was the community was really supportive of us. They’d honk or yell as they went by. Some stopped and came over. It was really nice to see they were supportive of it. And it was fun to do.”