MICHIGAN CITY — Real estate developer Michael Conner is a big proponent of public art. He likes what he sees in Michigan City, but would like those distinctive works to be more spread out around the town.

The city has some “wonderful public art downtown and on the north side, but I’m trying to spark a movement city wide,” he said

“The goal, I think, has always been to get it started on the north end and that it would inspire a movement into all sections of the city.”

So when he saw an opportunity for a piece of art on one of his buildings at 3401 Franklin – home of BIGGBY COFFEE – he knew just who to call to create “the largest mural in Michigan City.”

“I was talking to my dad, who leases the BIGGBY building, and he said he wanted a refresh, something to draw attention to the site,” said Mateo Conner, who was born and raised in Michigan City and graduated from La Lumiere School after attending Michigan City High School for three years.

He’s also the founder of muros (muros.co), a Chicago-based business which “connects clients interested in commissioning murals to some incredible local artists with a passion for creating murals,” Mateo Conner said.

Chicago artist Nate Gonzalez was chosen for the job, a mural on the north wall of the building, along which the drive-thru lane runs.

“The idea was to create a mural that was in a way an advertisement for BIGGBY, but consistent with the artist’s style,” Mateo said.

The finished product, which shows an astronaut zipping along with a coffee cup in hand, “not only says that you can get coffee here, but you can take off and skyrocket through your day,” Mateo said. “It is true to the artist’s cartoon style of illustration, and it includes the astronaut, his signature character.”

The work, done completely in aerosol paints and spanning the entire wall, “took roughly three days to complete,” he said. “One day of sketching, one of putting on the base layer of paint, and one for the finishing touches.”

The reviews have been positive, according to Mateo.

“The owners of BIGGBY are telling me they’re very happy with it,” he said, “and they’re getting positive comments from customers. You have no choice but to look at it while waiting in the drive-thru for your coffee. It’s right in your face and they say they’re getting a ton of positive feedback, and lots of interest from customers and the community.”

And that is Michael Conner’s goal, his son said.

“My dad wanted to showcase this area because there is a lot of investment in this direction,” Mateo said, and there are “many opportunities in other areas of the city where public art can be a positive draw. It’s very popular on the north side and this is a start to spreading it around the city.”

The work was the first in Michigan City for muros, but hopefully not the last, he said.

“This is my hometown and I love the way it’s progressing. I’m really interested in seeing what we can do here.” 

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