Two Page Watercolor Sketch Illustrating the Mt Pleasant Center

Art, The Mt. Pleasant Center and the Indian Boarding School
Part I

The combined properties of the former Mt. Pleasant Center and the Mt. Pleasant Indian and Industrial Boarding School total 313 acres of mature hardwoods, fields (farmed by Native children and later, residents), and a park-like campus.  On the east-end are the old buildings of the Indian Boarding School, and the west-end there is a Native American cemetery. In the middle was the Mt. Pleasant Center.  The Center buildings are razed now, and the boarding school buildings are deteriorating.  


A winter watercolor scene of a building with White Pine trees. Painting illustrates the blog.
Building 405 where my office was located shortly before closure. Residents lived there also.

The Mt. Pleasant Center was a state of Michigan institution for people with intellectual disabilities, many with behavioral or health issues that at the time made it difficult for them to live in the community. The Center was built on land that had once been the Mt. Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School, which will be the subject of my next blog. I worked as a case manager between 1998 and 2009 when Lansing announced the closure. 

This job could be extremely stressful and at times dangerous for staff and residents. To de-stress during breaks or after work, I often wandered the forests and fields of the campus grounds with my camera and art supplies. Knowing the history of this place was a catalyst for some of my favorite artwork. The following are some of the paintings done on grounds. 

Ten Minute Sketch

Quick, loose watercolor landscape in snow
After work I often painted from my car. In the winter that gave me only about 10 minutes to complete a painting while still on Center grounds.

Colors Of Fall

A painting to evoke excitement by using strong colors and shapes
One of the old buildings used as a garage. Painting with strong colors helped brighten up my day

Winter Hydrant

A snowscape watercolor with a fire hydrant and spruce trees to illustrate the openness of the Center grounds.
I loved the open spaces in wintertime that surrounded parts of the campus. Maintenance worked hard mowing them in the summer!

The Old Incinerator

watercolor of an old incinerator
I painted the structure first and then threw wet paint on it and scrubbed the paper-a very visceral way of painting I enjoy.

In between the Center and the boarding school was an old incinerator that nobody remembered it being operational which didn’t stop speculative stories.  I am not sure which institution used it or if both did. Although ugly, it was an interesting structure with the brick, rust, and cast-iron metal. I love painting pretty pictures, but I also am interested in less appealing subject matter.

rusty metal incinerator smokestack
the rusty metal smokestack
cast iron incinerator door
Cast Iron door

Center Grounds Photos

I think often of my time working at the Mt. Pleasant Center and wonder what happened to the people who lived there.  The Center is now owned by the city of Mt. Pleasant, and like many of the locals, we are waiting to see what the city will do with this beautiful piece of property. 

For more information about the Mt. Pleasant Center, see the City of Mt. Pleasant Article and one by the Morning Sun.

2 Responses

  1. OH, my God I loved looking at this!! I have spent hours walking the grounds, and into the woods. What were you doing with an office in Cottage 5

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