If you’re planning to travel Pure Michigan this summer, we have a few suggestions to add to your itinerary. Check out one (or more) of the small towns we helped put on the map with our annual Put Your Town on the Map grants.  

Art in the Park
Village of Spring Lake 

Location: 312 W. Exchange St., Spring Lake 

Art in the Park was the 2019 Put Your Town on the Map second-place winner. 

The Art in the Park program has been very successful according to Brady Selner, Spring Lake’s Village manager. The Put Your Town on the Map grant allowed the village to show proof of concept and get the initial program launched. Since then, the village has continued the project and there are now more than a dozen pieces of public art. “This program has also helped create a sense of place, and I am sure people both in the Village and those visiting enjoy the murals,” Selner said. ? ? 

If you’re in town, Selner recommends spending time at Tanglefoot Park, “The splashpad makes a great spot to enjoy some time with the family.” 

Check out this map to see all the public art throughout the Village.  

The Hart Project
Location: Hart Commons, 206 E Main St, Hart, MI 49420 

The Hart project was the 2022 Put Your Town on the Map third-place winner.

If you want to check out the Tin Man in Hart, Michigan, it won’t be difficult to find. Not only is the sculpture 24-feet tall, but within months of installation it was an official “tourist attraction” on Google Maps due to the popularity and number of check-ins. But the Tin Man wasn’t the only stop. According to Nichole Kleiner, Community & Economic Development Director in Hart, it also increased customers to downtown shops and restaurants.  

While Hart is only 10 miles from Silver Lake Sand Dunes, a popular tourist destination, the small town had struggled to draw those visitors an extra two miles to their charming downtown along Hart Lake. But that has changed thanks to the Put Your Town on the Map grant. “The Consumers Energy “Put Your Town on the Map” competition has truly put Hart ‘on the map,’” said Kleiner.  

Not only has the Tin Man brought in visitors it has also increased local community engagement. “It has also spurred greater community engagement in the arts and caught the attention of additional donors who are funding more art projects downtown,” Kleiner said. Last fall, a mural was added to a building near the Tin Man and they are now working on a “Troll on the Bridge” sculpture across from the Tin Man and a Solar Tree Charging sculpture downtown.  

“The Tin Man has become a source of pride for Hart residents, symbolizing the town’s commitment to the arts and community spirit. It has given our small town a distinctive identity, with Hart quickly becoming known for the art in “H’art,” said Kleiner. 

Art in the Alley Way 
Location: Downtown Gaylord  

Art in the Alley Way – the 2022 Put Your Town on the Map second-place winner – is an initiative to develop a 3-block area in Gaylord’s downtown social district.  

Lisa Marie Tobin from the Gaylord Area Council for the Arts said that while they have an established social district, they didn’t have a gathering space for people to connect. On the north side of the social district is an alley, which most people access to get to restaurants and other businesses. “The alley way was blighted,” said Tobin. “It wasn’t a good first impression.” But thanks to the Put Your Town on the Map grant, they have been slowly transforming the space. “Our goal is to transform the area into ‘Art in the Alley’, an arts and culture meeting space and downtown gathering space,” said Tobin. “Consumers Energy really was the springboard that allowed us to get this moving forward and bring us to where we are today.” 

They are currently working with artists and business owners to put up three murals and one mosaic. “The mosaic will give every community member an opportunity to complete a color pallet and tile to create their own design,” said Tobin. “When it comes together it creates a community picture; the individual tiles represent the individual voices and then when they come together that represents our community.” Tobin expects the mural to be installed on Aug. 2.   

Since the original grant, they have been able to leverage additional monies and grants. One area of focus has been the youth in the community. Tobin said they have installed an outdoor youth exhibit and held a street art leadership class for ages 13-17. “They developed leadership skills and became project managers and created a mural,” said Tobin. Thanks to a grant, they will be starting an afterschool program which will involve a community service project. “They are an underrepresented group, and we want to give them a place and sense of belonging in the community.” 

Tobin encourages everyone to stop at Gaylord the next time they are headed up north. “We’re centrally located, and I think we’re a hidden gem in Northern Michigan,” she said. “If you’re headed north, turn right after you get off the headway and you’ll hit our downtown area including local restaurants, businesses and Art in the Alley. Stop by to experience the welcoming spirit we have in our community.”  

 

Public Square
Location: Downtown Fairview, Comins Township  

The Public Square was the 2021 Put Your Town on the Map first-place winner.  

According to Rob Murphy, Comins Township Supervisor, the public square project has made a lot of progress. The first two years of the project was focused on excavation and design.?They cleared the lot and installed a parking area with lighting. They also constructed a second road to help with the flow of traffic. Murphy said they are currently waiting for designs to finalize landscaping. Even though it is still a work in progress, the space has already been used. “It was a huge success last year with our annual Tree Lighting event,” Murphy said.  

While they hope to have the project completed by Spring of 2025, they are using the space for events now. Murphy said they get a lot of traffic passing through town during the summer and are using the opportunity to provide a space for local vendors.

While Fairview, the wild Turkey Capital of Michigan, isn’t a travel destination yet, it’s a great place to stop and stretch your legs on your road trip. “We have a perfect small town hardware store and a grocer who wins national competitions every year for the best smoked turkey,” he said. “Maybe top off your tanks at our old-time gas station and if need be, there is a dollar general across the road,” he said. “Great things are happening in Fairview thanks in part of the Consumers Energy Put your Town on the Map grant.” 

Technology Garden 
City of Harbor Beach  

 The Technology Garden was the 2023 Put Your Town on the Map third-place winner. The Technology Garden will use two FarmBot Genesis XL robots to maintain two 8×20 garden beds in the main  beach/park area. 

The City Department of Public Works built two planters out of reclaimed wood from a pier that is being redeveloped. “They’ll be positioned in a way that we can get a good/scenic camera feed on them,” said Chad Gainor with the City of Harbor Beach. The school’s K-12 Robotics Club will assist with assembling the robots and then the school Agriculture Biology program will take over and plant the gardens.  

“The robots maintain the garden automatically; a camera detects weeds and when a weed is detected it swaps out the toolhead and eliminates the weed,” said Gainor. “It’s really cool.” 

At the very least the robots will water and weed the gardens, but depending on timing one of the robots might also do planting. Currently the Agriculture Biology group maintains a community garden that grows vegetables that are donated to the local Food Bank and Gainor expects this garden will have a similar purpose.  

Ultimately the Technology Garden will bring multiple benefits to the community. Gainor said it’s more than just a garden, “It’s almost going to be a public art installation, with a walking path to it, and informational signage.” 

Gainor hopes that people seeing the robots in action might generate more of an interest in gardening locally, “Hardly anyone knows how to grow food, which isn’t a problem today, but it could be tomorrow,” he said. He also hopes the early exposure to robotics in agriculture technology could lead to education and interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). “There’s a lot of opportunity for new tools and processes to be imagined and invented.” 

The installation is expected to take place within a couple weeks, but definitely in time for their Maritime Festival held July 10-14, which always draws a crowd. Additionally, Gainor said visitors should check out the lighthouse tours, the new marina and pickleball courts. Other local draws include a campground and half-dozen new shops and restaurants downtown.  

Village of Pinckney Community Garden
Location: 135 W. Main Street, Pinckney 

The Pinckney Community Garden was the 2021 Put Your Town on the Map second-place winner.  

According to the website, “The program provides an opportunity for residents to grow fresh produce or plants for individuals, provides a sense of community and uses an otherwise vacant parcel within the DDA district thereby improving the aesthetics and encouraging participation in activity in the area.” 

There are several 4’x8? raised beds as well as wheelchair accessible beds to rent. “Most of the available spots are currently being used,” said Andrea Piotrowski McCall, Village Clerk. “There are a variety of flower beds, vegetable gardens, butterfly gardens, etc.”  

An added benefit of the garden has been the lasting friendships the gardeners have made with each other over their shared love of gardening. 

If you’re visiting the area, you can check out Village Square, which has a gazebo, playground and several small shops. The area boasts walking, hiking and biking trails and is surrounded by two chains of lakes. And if that doesn’t sound like fun, you can go to Hell. Hell, Michigan that is, which is just three miles away from Pinckney.  

As you embark on your summer adventures, we hope you’ll stop by a couple of these small towns and check out all the cool things they have to offer.

Learn about the 2024 Put Your Town on the Map Winners:

Put Your Town on the Map: Imlay City is More than just Gateway to the Thumb