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Craig Hinshaw inspires conservation of fireflies with clay mural | 2024 Lansing ArtPath Profiles

The clay mural which consists of 30 tiles made of black clay, framed and mounted on a wooden stake. Each tile as a painted white firefly on it.
Sophia Saliby
Craig Hinshaw's pieces uses a solar battery to power small LED lights in each tile to illuminate the fireflies at night.

Some artists have participated in the Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center’s annual ArtPath exhibition multiple times, creating pieces around similar themes over the years at different spots along the Lansing River Trail. 

One artist has taken the opportunity to call attention to animals that may disappear because of the harm people have had on the environment. 

The idea behind ceramic artist Craig Hinshaw’s ArtPath piece started with a classic summer memory. 

"Who cannot remember capturing lightning bugs and putting them in a mason jar?"

But he hopes those fireflies won’t just be remembered as something from the past.

"Lightning bugs, one of those miracles of nature that especially in Michigan we treasure, are on the decline," Hinshaw said.

Hinshaw works out of Davison has been a full-time artist since retiring after 30 years as an elementary school art teacher.

"It's nice being here on ArtPath because it's allowed me to expand beyond the limited pottery wheel or my own studio." 

Craig Hinshaw posing next to his ArtPath piece
Sophia Saliby
Craig Hinshaw has participated in ArtPath four times.

He calls his piece a clay mural. It’s made up of more than 30 hand-made tiles framed and mounted on a wooden stake just off the trail. 

"The mural I'm displaying here is actually quite small as murals go," he said. "The mural is ceramic tiles that have been glued and crowded together just like a bathroom tile. "

Each tile is made of black clay with a glazed white lightning bug on it. The insects have gold abdomens that shine in the sun to mimic the glowing light fireflies emit.

It’s called The Remembrance of Lightning Bugs.

And Hinshaw has added something extra for those who come to his mural after the sun sets.

"You really wouldn't notice that the lights until at night."  

He’s installed tiny LEDs in each of the tiles that are powered by a solar battery. 

Could you tell your grandchildren what a lightning bug was if there are no lightning bugs? It would be almost impossible.

"The lights come on, and they pulsate. They look very close to what lightning bugs look like against the dark sky. "

Calling attention to the impact humans have on the environment has been a consistent theme with Hinshaw’s previous ArtPath pieces.  

One touched on the disappearance of monarch butterflies. Another focused on the harm of plastic pollution in our waterways and its effect on fish like rainbow trout. 

His piece this year is another call to action.

"Could you tell your grandchildren what a lightning bug was if there are no lightning bugs? It would be almost impossible," he said.

"Hopefully, we don't reach that point. But unless things change, it could be the remembrance of a lightning bugs. "

Hinshaw says at the very least, he just wants people who see his mural to think about what might be missing in the future if things don’t change

"If anything, it's just to create an awareness that people might say, why are the lightning bugs gonna be remembered instead of why aren’t they here? "

Craig Hinshaw’s sculpture The Remembrance of Lightning Bugs is located just south of the Turner Dodge House in Lansing’s Old Town. 

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

close up of the tiles created by Craig Hinshaw that each feature a firefly glazed in white and gold
Sophia Saliby

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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