By LINDA LOBECK
IRON MOUNTAIN - There has been a flourish of activity going on during the past two weeks on the west wall of Blackstone Pizza on East Hughitt Street in downtown Iron Mountain.
Mia Tavonatti, left, Nadia Jaime, center, and Tara Tavonatti of Orange County, Calif., work on the mural on the side of Blackstone Pizza in downtown Iron Mountain
A team of nine painters has been working with Iron Mountain native Mia Tavonatti to create a mural around the word, "believe," which was voted on by the community to define the vision for Iron Mountain.
The final product will be unveiled at noon on Thursday and the pubic is encouraged to attend, said Jonathan Ringel, Downtown Development Authority/Main Street manager.
Work on the mural started on Aug. 12, and it is expected to be completed today.
Tavonatti, who is the creator of the Svelata Foundation, has been the driving force behind this effort. She used her 30-plus years of artistic training to create the mural and then assembled a team of painters to tackle the job of putting the mural on a wall. And that canvas is massive - 25 feet high and 95 feet long.
One it was decided that the Power of Words Project mural would be created in downtown Iron Mountain this summer, nominations were accepted from the community for one word that stated the vision of the community. A total of 33 words were nominated and through an online voting process, the best word was picked.
Organizers noted that nearly 1,500 votes were cast and "believe' was the one word receiving the most votes.
Tavonatti, along to two other professional painters all living in California, Tara Tavonatti and Nadia Jaime, came to the area to complete the mural.
The remaining artists are all local students who received scholarships or grants from the Svetlana Foundation for their participation.
The students involved are Laurin LaBonte, Jennifer Bafile, Casey Hoaglund, Miranda Roberts, Melissa Scholke, Laura Bailey, Amber Tefft and Stephen Wysocki.
In addition, a few guest painters also got involved in the project including Kingsford High School art teacher Sarah Western, local artist Norma Deyaert, Rosemary Jankowski Jones, and Lawrence Jankowski.
The Power of Words Project was created by the Svetlana Foundation in partnership with the Iron Mountain DDA/Main Street with the goal of providing a vision for the future.
"It's a very simple idea - thoughts become words and words become actions," Tavonatti said.
She added that the goal is to plant seeds of inspiration in the minds of people in the community. "People generally don't tell you that you can do something...they just tell you that you can't do something. Art can inspire people to better themselves and their community."
Tavonatti is an award winning artist who established the Svetlana Foundation in 2009, and most recently launched the Power of Words project.
She talks about this type of project weaving together art, artists, students and the community by bringing the "power of words" to life through collaborative murals.
Blackstone Pizza representatives also stated that they were looking forward to having the mural on the wall of their building to enhance the downtown area.
Support for the project was also received in January from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA) when the Iron Mountain DDA/Main Street was awarded a $4,000 grant. Out of 233 applicants competing for funding, the Iron Mountain mural project was selected.
Locally, the August Lilja Memorial Trust Fund, established in 1999, has also supported the project through a significant financial contribution to help with the mural efforts.
"We are excited about the opportunity to support this community arts project," noted Lilja Trust Fund member Ruth Larson. "This initiative we hope will continue to draw community support and help to increase support for arts and culture in the community."
"The outreach from local businesses and individuals supporting the Power of Words Project has been tremendous," Ringel said. "We appreciate everyone who has been involved for their contributions in making this happen."
During the work on the mural, Ringel added that there has been a steady stream of people watching the progress, and their comments have been extremely positive.
"We hope people will take the time to stop down at noon on Thursday for the unveiling of this collaborative arts project in downtown Iron Mountain," Ringel said.
Linda Lobeck's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.