TRAVERSE CITY — Team Elmer’s likely would win in a contest for best-decorated construction equipment.
That’s because the company’s fleet now includes two artsy vehicles: a concrete truck painted pink for breast cancer awareness and a 40-ton demolition trailer with nearly 250 colorful handprints topped by a gigantic summertime mural.
“Those are the gems of our fleet,” said Tonya Wildfong, co-owner of Team Elmer’s, which provides asphalt, concrete, excavation and crane services in the region.
The new mobile mural is the work of Artists Creating Together-Grand Traverse, a regional nonprofit that aims to "disable disabilities" by bringing students with disabilities together with artists and art projects.
It was created with the help of Wildfong, ACT-Grand Traverse director Dayna Ryan, local artist and project manager Marcia Borell, and Signplicity Sign Systems. Together they came up with the design from student suggestions and tweaked it to transform a rusty, round-bottom trailer into a showcase of art by people with disabilities.
“It’s a Lake Michigan theme: cherries, sun, sailboats, ice cream cones, footprints in the sand,” said Wildfong, who helped paint over taped stencil designs on vinyl canvas at "color stations" set up at a National Cherry Festival Special Kids Day event. The completed design was shown off in a festival parade, then transferred to decal and permanently applied to the truck.
“The truck needed to be painted and it was either take it to a paint booth or do that," said Wildfong, who added her handprint to the others. "I think it’s a better use of the truck. It’s like a moving billboard for ACT. It’s a wonderful group.”
Borell, who has painted several murals including a wall-size Book of the Dead for the Dennos Museum Center's Egypt exhibition, said the biggest challenge was the prep work involved in making the project accessible to participants and "do-able" in just one morning.
"Just to create the stencils I put in many hours and one overnight," she said. "But you think about how much goes into the care of a lot of these people and how hard their parents have to work, and for a lot of parents to have their kid’s handprint appear on that truck as it travels around the county is really big."
Ryan said the trailer is the organization's largest art project and the project that best demonstrates ACT's renewed focus. About 400 adults, students, children and teens had a hand in painting it, she estimated.
“Recently we had gone through a name change and an internal overhaul of our role in the community. We focused on working together with people of all abilities. And I think the truck is a big example of that," she said. "It took artists, volunteers, sponsors and all the participants at Special Kids Day to do it. We all had to work together.”
Ryan and Wildfong said their organizations already are looking ahead to another vehicle ACT can decorate.
“Now that we’ve had this experience, we’re not intimidated by it,” said Ryan, who occasionally fields calls from drivers who see the colorful demolition trailer on the road. “Marcia Borell has wonderful skills. She understands murals, she understands print design and she understands math. And she now has all kinds of plans. She looks at a truck and says, ‘What could it be?’”