New initiative aims to increase activities, inclusiveness

Flint, Michigan – Flint’s Downtown Development Authority will welcome Kady Yellow as director of placemaking in early February. In the newly created role, Yellow will work to increase both the number and types of activities that take place downtown while strengthening a culture of inclusion.

 “I have loved making places come alive since 2010, after discovering the power of cross-pollinating municipal government, community organizations and the arts to build strong urban cores,” said Yellow, who already has some experience working in the Vehicle City. “During my involvement in the Flint Public Art Project last year, I was overwhelmed by the kindness, diversity, resilience and enthusiasm of Flint’s residents. I am thrilled to join the DDA and the Flint community. Through this new role, I hope to build relationships and develop initiatives that will allow Flint’s downtown to shine as a center for creativity and the arts.”

Yellow was born and raised in Binghamton, N.Y., where she was appointed the youngest commissioner for Downtown Development and co-founded the Department of Public Art. She launched Binghamton’s MuralFest and focused her work at a local art co-op on empowering artists to help revitalize her hometown. 

Over the years, Yellow also has worked in New Orleans, Alaska and Ireland, with a focus on placemaking and the importance of art within a community. 

In 2019, she published her first book, “New Orleans: Murals, Streets & Graffiti Vol.1” and worked with the Flint Public Art Project (FPAP) to institute FLINT x NOLA, a cultural arts exchange. She currently is working with co-author Joe Schipani, executive director of FPAP, on a book about Flint’s street art. 

As director of placemaking, Yellow will lead an initiative called “What’s Up Downtown.” The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation is supporting the position and other operational costs for the first year and will consider future funding as the initiative progresses. Yellow’s office will be in the Ferris Wheel building.

An advisory committee composed of community advocates and leaders led the search for a director and will advise and guide the director’s role and responsibilities. The committee will educate Yellow about the history of downtown and will help to connect the dots related to current activities to promote more awareness and coordination, said Dr. Bobby Mukkamala, chair of the committee.

“We have enjoyed large activities in downtown, like Back to the Bricks, the Crim and shows at The Capitol Theatre. What we are lacking are the more spontaneous, smaller gatherings of people for simpler yet just as entertaining opportunities that are present in vibrant downtown scenes elsewhere. This creation of a ‘place’ that our communities can come to enjoy on a day-to-day basis is what we would like to see happen,” Mukkamala said. “I see patients in my office daily who look at the pictures of downtown Flint that I have hanging in my office. They gaze at them with a nostalgic look in their eyes, and the stories about catching the bus into downtown and spending a Saturday there pour out of them. I want to create more generations’ worth of stories like that.”

There are plans to add members to the advisory committee as the initiative expands, Mukkamala said, including a representative from Flint’s university community, among others. 

“We’re excited to have Kady on board to lead Flint’s placemaking initiative. To have an experienced and creative person who is dedicated only to this task of creating an inclusive and active downtown is a great step forward for the city,” said Neal Hegarty, vice president of programs at the Mott Foundation and a member of the advisory committee. 

Re-imagining downtown will be crucial to attracting residents and other community members who haven’t always felt welcome, according to Isaiah Oliver, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint and member of the advisory committee. 

“We’re excited about the potential to come together in new ways, taking a fresh look at social engagement mixed with diversity, creativity and entertainment. Being able to use community spaces in ways that might not have been anticipated by the people who created those spaces is a major part of this initiative,” Oliver said. “The advisory committee will intentionally seek to create a place that is safe and welcoming for everyone. We would like to see downtown evolve into a place that becomes a destination for all people in our community.”