© 2024 Michigan State University Board of Trustees
Public Media from Michigan State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Nick Pizaña paints the Great Lakes from space | 2024 Lansing ArtPath Profiles

Mural painted on a wall under a bridge, depicting two astronauts in space along with a robot and the Earth in the background turned to focus on Michigan and the Great Lakes
Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center
Nick Pizaña's mural From Great Lakes to Deep Space depicts a scene from space.

22 Michigan artists have contributed work this year for the Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center’s annual ArtPath exhibition. 

Their pieces are all along the Lansing River Trail, and WKAR’s weekly series Inside the Arts is bringing you the stories behind some of them throughout the summer including a mural by an artist who has taken an out of this world approach to depicting what it means to be a Michigander. 

Like many Michigan natives, the Great Lakes have been a constant presence in artist Nick Pizaña’s life. 

Nick Pizaña leaning back against his mural
Sophia Saliby
Nick Pizaña has been painting murals from more than ten years.

"I'm from Detroit originally, but growing up in Michigan, my family, we’d vacation Up North and stuff too. We'd go out to Traverse City and Mackinac Island and hang out in all the Great Lakes," he said.

But he’s found that not everyone recognizes how important the lakes are.

"It always kind of irks me when you see like a globe made, and they like just omit the Great Lakes and Michigan," he said. "I think it's so special that  we live in this place that's identifiable from space ."

So, for the mural he painted for ArtPath, Pizaña says he made sure the Great Lakes could be seen from outer space. 

It depicts a scene from the stars, two astronauts are in the foreground surrounded by bright bursts and swirls of color against a black sky.  

There’s a big robot mech that’s drifting by. And then in the background is the Earth, turned to focus on Michigan. The mural is called From Great Lakes to Deep Space. 

"I like to find those things that kind of take something that's familiar to you, but then put it in a new light that makes you think of it a bit differently."

I definitely want to speak to kids and get them kind of interested in space and thinking about maybe themselves getting into science and just thinking about our environment and our world.

Pizaña says the galaxies and sunbursts he’s painted in bright purples and yellows shooting across the sky are meant to evoke the unknown of what’s out there 

"Just like the wonder of space, but just with my little house paint and spray paint."

His astronauts are young. One is throwing up a peace sign. The other is floating in zero gravity behind them. Pizaña wants young people who see his mural to see possibility in what he’s painted. 

"I definitely want to speak to kids and get them interested in space and thinking about maybe themselves getting into science and just thinking about our environment and our world," he said.

But the young astronauts aren’t supposed to represent anyone in particular.

"I just like to make the image and then let the viewer kind of make their own story in their head. "

And he says if a viewer doesn’t quite see themselves in the people in his mural, he still wants them to think about the Michiganders of the future 

"It’s something that I kind of wanted to kind of reinforce and make people think about is our Great Lakes and protecting them and keeping them as something that your generations can have and cherish ," he said.

Nick and Chris Pizaña paint the mural using spraypaint
Sophia Saliby
Nick's brother Chris helped out in painting the mural.

While some people may grow apart from where they came from,  Pizaña says he doesn’t really know how to make art that doesn’t reference his roots 

"I've always just been so proud of where I'm at, and I've always wanted to just capture it in my artwork also."

Nick Pizaña’s mural From Great Lakes To Deep Space is located under the Cedar Street bridge near Elm Street. 

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

Sophia Saliby is the local producer and host of All Things Considered, airing 4pm-7pm weekdays on 90.5 FM WKAR.
Journalism at this station is made possible by donors who value local reporting. Donate today to keep stories like this one coming. It is thanks to your generosity that we can keep this content free and accessible for everyone. Thanks!