The Nomad Clan are up there with Britain’s finest street artists. A duo made of up Hayley Garner and Joy Gilleard, they are just as popular in Flint, Michigan. In total they have painted five murals in the town. All part of the ever growing Flint Public Art Project.
Street art has come at the right time for Flint. Transforming the way that it not only looks but the way that people feel about where they live. The town has had more than it’s fair share of misfortune. The Water Crisis of 2014 made world news. Lead from aging pipes contaminated the water supply making it unsafe to drink. Vast work has happened since then to replace all the pipes.But it’s left a negative impression and it’s one that the locals are hoping to shift through public art.
Here in Flint – A Short Film with the Nomad Clan
Nomad Clan in Flint
First invited to Flint in October 2018. The Nomad Clan have been key to generating interest around the street art project. Known internationally, they have a reputation for creating site specific murals which respect the history of the place in which they are painting. Packed full of meaning and symbolism they become talking points in their own right.
Totem Books was the 1st mural Nomad Clan did in Flint in October 2018. Called ‘Flintstones’ the mural captures a child reading a book about the history of Flint whilst the book comes to life around her. Totem Books is a local used book store and cafe. During the time that the Nomad Clan painted the mural, other artists also contributed pieces. Works from local artists Charlie Boike and Kevin Burdick were joined by pieces from international artists Freddy Diaz, Binho Ribeiro and MEGGS.
Weaving in the history of the city. The mural pays homage to it. “It’s founding fathers and mothers were native american” explains the Nomad Clan. Led by a trio of prominent tribes. They were known as the ‘three fires’, the Pottawatomie, Ottawa and Chippewa. “Along with the Iroquois who migrated into Michigan as European Colonisation continued west”.
The piece also remembers the time when Flint was a hub of automotive manufacturing. “General Motors became the backbone of Flint and in return the township earned its nickname ‘Vehicle City'”. That wasn’t to last though and it’s decline had a devastating impact on the local economy. The water crisis would come afterwards and a negative documentary on Netflix only added to the negative press surrounding the area.
“Yet in spite of tragic recent history” say the Nomad Clan. “Flintstones refuse to give up on the place which shaped them. Tired of being defined by their community’s problems, they are ready to create a future defined by its resilience”. The Flint Public Art Project is a key part of that future.
Flint Fresh was created in October of 2018. This was inside the Flint Fresh food hall. An organization that helps local small farmers put their resources together to be able to compete in the markets. Not only that, it provides more access to healthy food to the people of Flint. The Nomad Clan were joined by Kevin Burdick who painted the lettering on the mural.
A partnership with the Southwestern Classical Academy and COlabs brought the Nomad Clan back again to Flint in May 2019. Joining once again with Kevin Burdick they worked together with students they’d first met the previous year. Over a week they gave an introduction to street art through aerosol art workshops. In total 20 students took part, allowing them to develop, test and to explore their creativity and talent.
Speaking of the project the Nomad Clan said on their instagram “the most rewarding aspect of being a street artists is the genuine bonds we make. I am honoured to have gained a new family in Flint. A family who two years ago were strangers I’d never met. These human bonds are priceless. They are worth more than I could have ever imagined”.
The Entropy Mural was created inside an abandoned church in Flint, May of 2020. Possibly the most identifiable image to come out of the Nomad Clan’s residency in Flint. “This spot was our birthday gift to Joy on her 2nd visit to Flint” said Joe Schipani the Executive Director of the Flint Public Art Project. If there’s one thing that’s true in the urban art world, it’s that spots like this are hard to come by. Particularly where the architecture and the art combined begin to create an aesthetic all of it’s own.
Abandoned for around 10 years, the church where the Entropy mural was originally a baptist church though the last group of people to worship inside was the Flint Masjid of Al-Islam.
Golden Leaf Club
In October 2019 the Nomad Clan returned to Flint for the Free City Mural Festival. Called ‘March to your own beat’ their wall was at the Golden Leaf Club. This is the oldest black owned business in Flint and the first black bar in the city. The club originally opened in 1918 under a different name and changed hands in 1920 when it was named the Golden Leaf.
The Nomad Clan have visited Flint three times as part of the Flint Public Art Project in 2018 and 2019. They have been supported by the project and COlabs an LA-based collective who have partnered with FPAP to curate and document the Flint mural initiative since its inception in 2017. All photographs included in this piece have been provided by Joe Schipani from the Flint Public Art Project
For more Inspiring City articles featuring the Nomad Clan, take a look at: