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Jessica and Zach Kovan paint a tribute to a family member | 2023 Lansing ArtPath Profiles

 Mural for ArtPath with a red background, a side profile of a face painted in purple, a line of hearts and text that reads "Love is Love is Love is Love is Love is Love." People have written on the face
Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center
The Kovans are inviting viewers to write what they love about Lansing on the mural.

Usually, the pieces that are a part of the Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center’s annual ArtPath exhibition are each the work of one artist.

But one mural on the Lansing River Trail this year is a collaboration between two people who share a close bond.

Jessica Kovan has been working as a mixed media artist professionally for years. Her son Zach says that made the house he and his sisters grew up in an extremely creative space.

 Jessica and Zach Kovan smiling and holding up paint rollers in front of their mural
Sophia Saliby
The Kovans have been creating art together for decades.

"There was always art going on, whether it was a project happening over dinner, or my mom living in her studio and us poking our heads in," he said.

Over time, Zach began developing his own artistic style as a graphic designer and illustrator .

"My style of art is definitely more quick-hit, fun doodles, kind of light, playful. My mom has a deep expertise in art and technique and the foundation of it," he explained.

But despite their differences, Jessica says it was only natural to begin to work together

"When he's home, we just say, 'Let's paint a painting together. Or let's paint a wall together, or let's paint a mural together.' And we have realized that we actually can do that well," she said.

Of course, being so close, they might not always agree on things.

"I'm more a planner than Zach is. I want to know exactly how many gallons of paint we need," she said. "I want to know exactly how much, what type of rollers we need, and Zach's like, 'Don't worry.'"

Jessica says she now tries to channel her son when she feels like she’s getting too uptight. And for Zach, what they end up making usually reflects their individual strengths and their creativity together.

"I get to lean on her expertise while kind of bringing my light, playful style. And I think it's a really nice balance between the two things," he said.

Their mural for ArtPath is one of those collaborations. It’s called Love is Love is Love. The phrase might be familiar to some.

"It was from a speech Lin Manuel Miranda gave. And he's been just a very inspirational figure for the whole country and world but for our family as well," he said. "Loved his shows since I was young.

The mural is also dedicated to Lansing, the home of Jessica's mother and Zach’s grandmother.

"I grew up in Lansing. Zach grew up right outside of Lansing. And my mom died two years ago," Jessica Kovan said. "I always brought her down to ArtPath, and she just loved it. So, we came up with the idea of let's do something for her."

Her name was Emily Ziff Trumbull. She lived in the city for six decades and taught in Lansing schools for 40 years. Zach says some of his best memories in the city were with her from going to the Quality Dairy on Pennsylvania to walking around Old Town.

My grandma holds a very, obviously, really, really special place in both of our hearts. And Lansing held a really special place in hers.
Zach Kovan

"My grandma holds a very, obviously, really, really special place in both of our hearts. And Lansing held a really special place in hers."

The background of the mural is red. On the right is a side profile of a face, painted purple. It’s simple with not too much detail except for a defined nose, mouth and chin. In the middle is a line of painted hearts. Then “Love is Love" is written again and again on the left side.

"This is more conceptual as just a way to kind of show all the faces that Lansing can be," Zach Kovan said.

As an interactive element, the Kovans want people who see the piece to write on the face what love means to them, what Lansing means to them and how they connect.

"They'll be able to write on the wall itself and then be a part of the mural," he added.

So far, trail users have written things like “the center of the Michigan universe” and “a place where people care” as well as simply “peace” on the face.

Jessica says she hopes people get the same enjoyment from the mural as her mom did seeing other pieces during previous ArtPath exhibitions

"My mom, for the last couple years, it was hard for her to move around. So, the fact we could come down, and I could push her, you know, along and see all the beautiful art, I hope that it brings people joy."

Jessica and Zach Kovan’s mural Love is Love is Love is under the I-496 bridge alongside many past and present ArtPath pieces.

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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