Featured Artist – Olivia Maldonado

We spoke with Olivia Maldonado, the 17 year old artist behind our brand new mural (located in the back of our building – facing the Republic Parking Lot). After beginning her work in March, Maldonado recently completed the mural that pays homage to Ann Arbor, with plenty of Easter eggs for everyone to find. Maldonado is a recent graduate from Chelsea High School and was an Education Intern with us since January of 2018. Olivia will be attending the Art Institute of Chicago in the fall. Come check out the mural in detail and you’ll find some very symbolic A2 things. Can you spot them all? Share a photo using #A2Mural and tell us your favorite.


How did you get involved with the Ann Arbor Art Center?olivia muldanado ann arbor art center mural

OM: My former teacher Geo Rutherford used to work here as a ceramics teacher. She told me that you had a great team at the Ann Arbor Art Center and that you were looking for youth interns so I applied! I ended up starting off as an education volunteer so I’d help set up for classes.

I’ve had a really great experience. The Ann Arbor Art Center has a really close knit team of people and they’re willing to help you regardless of your experience level and there’s definitely an underlying tone of respect for all artists from any sort of medium or creed. And just a general push to try and be better than you are and there’s no judgement with that.

How were you selected to paint the mural?

I’ve done a couple other murals in Chelsea, Michigan in the past just for fun, and I kind of wanted to see if I could step up my game and do something professional. I subtly asked if I could do the mural, just a little bit day after day. Finally, I was able to come up with a mock sketch and get that approved by the Art Center. It was kind of a collaboration of a lot of ideas from everyone, because everyone’s experience of Ann Arbor is different. 

What is the story behind this mural?

I really wanted to do something that involved Ann Arbor and how much I appreciate it because I’m not going to be here for very much longer. The Ann Arbor Art Center partnered with Toyota and the theme is transportation, or people “in transit.” I took that idea and put that in more of  a broad context. So not only are there going to be vehicles and bikes and all the great public transportation that Ann Arbor provides, but also people in their stages of transit in life. You’ll be able to see people walking down the street, elderly couples, people who are graduating from college, from high school, people experiencing first dates. Any moment in your life where you sort of feel in transition to something better and greater than you were previously. So that combined with all the things that help cultivate that in Ann Arbor, all of our local breweries, and all of the natural amazing opportunities we have here to see, like the Arb. Just a combination of all those things.

What are your favorite Easter Eggs in the mural?

I really loved doing the T-Rex because I combined a little bit of Ann Arbor and a little bit of Chelsea. The Natural History museum has a T-Rex skeleton in it and alongside it they actually have a mammoth that was found in Chelsea. So bringing two towns that I care about together was cool.

What do you want people to experience when they see your mural?

I want a mural everyone can enjoy regardless of your age, how long you’ve lived in Ann Arbor, your past experiences. There’s something here for everyone and everyone takes where they live and interprets it in a totally different way. I wanted to take as many aspects from our community and make it into one big mural. If you’re walking with your grandma and your child you can all find something you can relate to with this beautiful city.

What were some of the challenges you faced when completing this mural?

There are a lot of challenges with a mural this size. Being an art person, definitely math is not my fortay! We ended up doing a couple sketches and we did a grid layout to be able to project it onto a massive scale. We did our calculations wrong and we kind of had to improvise a bit. We also used house paint instead of acrylic paint which also serves its own unique challenges as a medium just in terms of blending. The first day I worked on it was terrifying. I was doing the green on the trees and it rained the day after. These little water pustules came and it ruined the paint. We had to learn how to accommodate with the weather.

Why do you think public art is important in Ann Arbor?

I think public art is super important because art is in our public always whether it’s very blatant like a massive mural or just the architecture you’re surrounded by everyday. I think that making sure the community is able to be involved and experiencing something together without even realizing it. Thousands of people could be walking by this mural everyday, but each of them is taking something different from it while sharing this collective experience at the same time. You know, being able to look at something and appreciate it and see the beauty in it versus just a blank wall, it’s something to be happy and inspired about

If you could tell people one thing about the Ann Arbor Art Center, what would it be?

The Art Center focuses on a sense of community. Whether you’re starting out as an artist or your kid is interested in art, there’s something here for you and you’re always welcome with open arms. Even if you don’t know anything, just taking a class, the instructors, the teachers, the staff…everyone is so supportive and willing to help you grow.


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