Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 5, 2013

'89 LeBaron is true work of art

By GRETCHEN MURRAY Special to the Record-Eagle
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Don’t bother searching through local galleries for artist Lee Mix’s most unique creation: Just check the rearview mirror.

The Frankfort artist put her own spin on kinetic art by converting a 1989 Chrysler LeBaron convertible into a moving sculpture.

Mix covered the entire exterior of the car, down to the hubcaps, in an acrylic mosaic tile pattern inspired by Frankfort’s sparkling lakes and graceful cherry orchards. She said she lost count of the time and money she put into a project she donated to the Elizabeth Lane Oliver Center for the Arts in Frankfort.

Now the LeBaron is being raffled to raise money for the center.

“I decided to give the car away because I’m an artist, and I thought raffling the car would be a fun and exciting way to get the community involved in helping the art center,” Mix said.

Mix, a hair stylist by trade, usually paints in watercolor and enamel mediums. She said she saw a similar piece of art while vacationing with her husband in Key West, Fla.

“That car could not be driven,” she said. “I saw another one that was not done very well, so I started doing research, looking for usable acrylic tiles and lighter weight epoxy grout.”

Mix didn’t have to look any further than to her husband, Roger, for the car.

“We used to own a storage facility. When we sold it, we had to liquidate 35 cars,” Mix said. “A totally drivable mosaic car was always on my bucket list, and Roger gave me the LeBaron for the project. You should have seen his face when I took an electric sander to it.”

She said she never drew a design plan, and the scenes came together as she worked. Other than the two women who helped her sort tile colors, Mix did the work alone and stopped counting after she was 300 hours into the project.

“We’ve never had a donation quite like this,” said Steven Brown, director of the nonprofit Oliver Arts Center. “It was generous of Lee to offer it to us, and proceeds from the raffle will go to programs and operations that facilitate all types of art like our kids’ classes, the writing classes we now offer and our new culinary arts classes.”

Mix loves the fuss the car generates when it’s spotted around town.

“People stop at my salon to buy a raffle ticket and are all excited when they tell me they saw the car. It’s the easiest thing ever to sell.”

Drawing for the winning raffle ticket will be on Sept. 13 at the art center located at 132 Coast Guard Road in Frankfort. Cost is $5 for a ticket or five tickets for $20.

For more information, call 231-352-4151.