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Michael Pleyte uses vinyl records to recreate a marching band | 2023 Lansing ArtPath Profiles

Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center
Michael Pleyte took inspiration from the annual Silver Bells in the City event for his piece.

ArtPath is back for its sixth year.

The exhibition from the Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center features public art and murals along the Lansing River Trail throughout the summer.

One installation by a Lansing artist is pulling inspiration from vinyl records and marching bands.

Michael Pleyte has been listening to and collecting records since he was a kid. Even as ways to enjoy music have changed from cassettes to CDs to digital, he always comes back to vinyl.

"You can't just zone out and not pay attention because you are actively participating in the process," he explained. "You have to flip the record. You have to put the needle down."

12 years ago, he turned his passion for vinyl and music into an artistic career. His typical work features cutouts of city skylines on records.

"Don't worry. I'm not cutting up rare records or anything like that. And so, I'm always trying to find just clean records that'll look good on a wall."

Despite owning more than a thousand vinyls between his personal collection and the ones he uses for art, you might be surprised to learn that Pleyte says he has no musical talent himself.

"No matter how much I love vinyl and my life and career and profession is now revolved around music. I don't play an instrument. I'm just a fan," he said.

But he’s hoping that the piece he’s created for ArtPath this year will make even people like him feel like they’re a part of something musical.

 Michael Pleyte arranges cutouts of vinyls records on a grey panel to resemble a bass drum player in a marching band
Sophia Saliby
Michael Pleyte used about 10 to 12 records to make each marching band member.

"My intention is to have folks that are walking down the River Trail to feel a little bit like they're walking with a marching band."

His installation is called Vinyl Marches On and features nearly a dozen silhouettes of marching band members placed on panels along a part of the trail. Each figure from the drum major to the trumpet player is made from 10 to 12 vinyl records he’s cut out.

While he’s mostly using the standard black vinyl, the plumes on top of each of the figures’ hats are made out of ones that are colored.

Pleyte was also inspired by an annual Lansing holiday event, Silver Bells in the City which features a parade with local marching bands.

"I see a lot of that kind of nostalgic, kind of classic look of marching bands, and it has gone nowhere with high schools." he said. "It is a wonderful tradition and the outfits and the pageantry and everything."

Pleyte says he often covers up the artist labels when he makes his art. But for this piece, visitors can see exactly what LPs and EPs he used.

"I use the original artists labels, specifically with this piece, kind of sneaking in some of my favorites and friends’ favorites and, you know, for my grandfather, I put a couple of John Denver records in a couple of the folks and things like that. I'm putting some Steve Miller in there."

 vinyl record cut to resemble a face. it's made out of a Bill Joel record
Sophia Saliby
Pleyte chose to keep the original labels of the records for the piece including this one from Billy Joel.

He also tried to include some local records he has found.

"I think it's called the Geriatric Six [Plus One]. But it's like an MSU jazz ensemble, and it seems lovely. I've listened to it once one of the sides, and it's great."

Pleyte says he hopes his piece draws River Trail users in while they’re passing by.

"For that, you know, 15-20 feet that you're walking by the piece, I hope that, you know, it feels a little different for that moment."

You can find Michael Pleyte’s Vinyl Marches On along the Old Town Boardwalk by Cesar Chavez Avenue.

The Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center is a supporter of WKAR.

Sophia Saliby is the local producer and host of All Things Considered, airing 4pm-7pm weekdays on 90.5 FM WKAR.
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