GTPulse: The Woman Who Gave Traverse City Wings

My first articles for GTPulse were a series about the admirable young ladies running to be National Cherry Queen. I loved doing the articles because it was my first week living in Traverse City and I didn’t know where anything was. Each girl showed me around different areas of the Traverse area and one of them showed me around downtown Traverse City. We spent the day drinking coffee, eating delicious and sticky mini donuts and walking everywhere downtown. Karissa and I were walking and talking when we passed by these huge wings on the side of The Coin Slot arcade building. You know the ones. They’re big, beautiful and they often pop into my Instagram explore page. It made for a lovely picture, and now I can’t not look at them every time I walk by. The other day I clicked on a picture of a beaming woman standing in front of the wings and discovered that she was the artist who made them. It’s been a year since she has made the mural and I had the pleasure of asking her all about Traverse City’s iconic wings.

Heather Spooner has been living in Traverse City for two years. She and her wife are both Michigan natives but were living in Atlanta, Georgia when Heather’s wife Christy Lundgren got a job opportunity in Traverse City. Although the two had lived in Michigan before neither had lived in Northern Michigan. Heather was nervous to move to a new place and wondered if people would be accepting of her and Christy.

“I’m never going to hide who I am, I’m not going to lie to people.”

The couple have found Traverse City to be warm and welcoming. Heather started making friends and meeting people in the Traverse City creative community and through her new friends and her artistic talent, she was asked by downtown Traverse City to create an interactive mural. She said yes and fondly remembers painting the wings while Traverse City’s Friday Night Live was going on.

“I had a ton of questions while I was doing it, which was really fun to field while you’re actively painting something and talking to people. It was wonderful. I felt that it gave the community a sense of ownership, too. They were seeing this thing happen.”

The wings, which have the words Love, Acceptance, Unity, and Equality painted in to the spine of the feathers, have been a big source of joy for residents and for tourists. It’s a rare occasion that I don’t see a smiling face getting their photo snapped in front of the wings. They’ve also been a big source of Joy for Heather.

“I’ve had a couple people circle back and say, ‘I watched you paint these.’ The stories that have come out of these wings I painted are just so heartfelt, and so meaningful and inspiring and sometimes just silly. People send me pictures of their dogs in front of them, or they tag me in prom photos in front of them. People with the intention of photographing their child as they grow. All the good stuff.”

Beyond murals Heather also does hand lettering. She runs local business Ampersand Lettering Lab where she paints beautiful, hand-lettered signage and decorative items, as  well as teaches lettering workshops. She also does contracted murals, and said that they are her favorite art form.

“I like being able to translate something that lives in my head, outside of my head in very large scales and there’s something I really like about them being in a usable space.”

The wings aren’t Heather’s only local icon. She has also created signs and throws a sign making party for the Pride parade and Up North Pride. She also created the  All Love Needs Is You slogan that Up North Pride is using to create a series of rainbow t-shirts.

Heather has been well received by the Traverse City community and the feeling is mutual. Heather and Christy have moved around a lot and have lived a life full of love and adventure. There’s something exhilarating about not having a strong commitment to one place or one idea of home but Heather has found that for the first time, she feels like she’s home.

“I just have this sense that these people and this place are it, this is meant to be. It’s a very weird thing to say. I’ve spent a lot of time travelling and for one place to feel like home, it’s something I never thought I would ever feel. In a lot of ways when I created the wings it was kind of my way of thanking this new place for loving me and accepting me as I was.”

Traverse City has given Heather a sense of home, and she’s given Traverse City a pair of wings.

Categories: GTPulse