Flint, MI—Among the colorful murals covering a building on the corner of Stevenson Street and Flushing Road, local artist Pauly Everett looked up at one painted by Isiah Lattimore: a vibrant, more than 20-foot-tall painting of Everett’s face.
Everett said he grew up “all over,” but the area around that mural on the west side of Flint, Mich. has been his “stomping grounds” for a while.
He’s got a house and a home studio in the area now. And soon, he and his fellow local creatives in The Flint Underground collective will have an exhibition space of their own on the west side they plan to call The Flint Underground Gallery.
“The idea came about of just having a place to call home, you know, to create and display,” Everett said. “We don’t have to get put through the wringer with other galleries or submit and wait for stuff to happen.”
The Flint Underground Gallery has been in the works for over a year, Everett said. He has already secured a building and said he’s hoping to open it up in the spring of 2023.
With help from family, friends and fellow Flint-area artists, Everett has been repairing the building. To cover the costs, he set up a GoFundMe campaign with a $15,000 goal. As of this article’s publication, donors have given over $4,000.
Everett and local artist Justin Faber, a “day-one” member of Flint Underground and partner on the gallery, aim to bring artists of all stripes to the gallery for shows, collaboration and inspiration. Everett already helps get artists out for events like First Fridays and Art Walk, but those events usually only last a day, he said. “Instead of just bringing them out for a one-day popup, we can bring them out for a month-long exhibit,” he said.
“Building up the community, it’s just like everybody looking after each other, making sure everybody’s taken care of and giving extra space for everybody to excel and grow and learn more from each other,” Everett said. “If nobody steps up and keeps doing different things to change stuff or just build on top of whatever is already going on, then it’ll just be the same things happening year after year after year and nobody wants that.”
Although Everett now plays a major role in Flint’s arts community, getting to that point wasn’t always easy for him, he said.
“You’re like, ‘Damn, you know, how do I get to be a part of that?,’” Everett said. “I had kind of a hard time because I used to just go find whatever random events were going on downtown, and just, like, bring art supplies and paint on the streets and shit because I didn’t have anywhere to rock at, you know? I didn’t have anywhere to paint at or nothing. I think at the time, I didn’t even have a home to be in, honestly.”
That experience partly inspired the gallery, he said. Everett envisions the space as a sort of pathway for local emerging artists to get involved in the community he spent years inching his way into, he said.
“I don’t want that to be hard on the next generation of artists coming up,” he said. “It should be a lot more accessible and easier.”
Building on his experience teaching youth workshops at the likes of Applewood Estates, Grand Blanc Academy, Carpenter Road Elementary School and more, Everett said he hopes to incorporate some kind of youth programming at the Flint Underground Gallery.
Everett has ambitions for the west side as a whole, too, envisioning an arts district down the “Corunna Road corridor.” Arts districts are more common in bigger cities, he said, but he doesn’t see why it couldn’t happen in Flint. But for now, he’s taking “the baby steps,” he said.
Summing up his plans for the gallery, Everett said, “It’s gonna be different.”
“If you just want to be a tiny splash in the pond, then whatever,” he said. “But if you really want your stuff to stand out and people to see it and recognize it, you gotta be a little strange or different or whatever…People say it’s all been done before, but I’m trying to carve against all of that.”