Jill Dombrowski paints ducks and geese along the River Trail | 2023 Lansing ArtPath Profiles
Updated July 14, 2023 at 3:12 p.m. ET
The Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center’s annual ArtPath exhibition features murals and sculptures that might make Lansing River Trail users stop and think.
But one artist is using the trail itself to remind pedestrians and bikers to share the space, even with those that quack, honk and waddle.
Jill Dombrowski describes herself as a “part-time artist.” That means she’s had the freedom to pursue creative projects without the pressure of having to rely on it as a job. She’s done printmaking at home and even an origami exhibition.
But a few years ago, she was inspired to make a public art piece for the first time. She got a micro-grant from the Arts Council of Greater Lansing. And instead of the carved blocks and ink she’d used for printmaking, she took stencils and paint outside to use the road as her canvas.
What I love about the street painting is everyone has to see it.
"I did a crosswalk painting at the block in front of my house, and all my neighbors came out and were super excited. And people just walking by stopped to help and that was just so nice, so validating."
She says art isn’t always easy to connect with when it’s siloed in places like museums and galleries.
"What I love about the street painting is everyone has to see it," she said.
She was also motivated to paint her designs on crosswalks to promote safety on neighborhood streets.
"Anything I could do to raise awareness and slow cars down, and it is a proven way to slow traffic, is to catch the attention of the drivers. And also to let pedestrians know that this is a place for them, they belong."
She’s painted confetti, flowers and dragon scale patterns on roadways as part of different projects.
"I try to make my works very, like, accessible and colorful and not, like, too heady."
Her piece for ArtPath fits into that mission of making public art fun.
It’s called Duck Duck Goose and features 20 different mallard ducks, both green-headed males and brown-feathered females, and big Canada geese painted with stencils directly on the River Trail.
Dombrowski says they’re a bit larger than life, about two or three times the normal size real birds. Some are standing, swimming or following each other around. Others are doing more unique waterfowl behaviors.
"There's the dabbling which is when they're diving down to pick up some foods in the water, and their rear end is in the air."
She says those who want to see every bird she painted will actually have to use the trail
"You'll, like, walk a little bit, and then you'll see another one. So, it's going from the bridge, here, all the way to the dock past the playground."
Just like Dombrowski’s work on sidewalks aims to make drivers aware that they aren’t the only ones using the road, this piece has a similar message.
"I think it's a reminder that even on trails like this, like, the people aren't the only users," she said. "The animals are the users as well, and it's a shared space with the ducks and the geese."
You can find Jill Dombrowski’s piece Duck Duck Goose along the Lansing River Trail in Burchard Park-South close to Old Town.
The Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center is a supporter of WKAR.