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GARY | For anyone interested in the arts, summer street fests or just having a good time, the writing is on the wall – and it involves jotting down June 15 in date books and on calendars.

That’s when the Miller Beach Arts and Creative District will sponsor Lake Effect 2013, an all-day celebration of street art, music, food and performance. More than 20 graffiti writers will transform Lake Street into a living, breathing work of art.

The Number One Man with the Spray Can is Hammond artist Ismael Muhammad Nieves, a 44-year-old electrical engineer who grew up on New York’s Lower East Side, where he became involved in art at school and observed countless amounts of graffiti throughout the city. He’s organizing the street art section of the event.

“Graffiti writing is the visual element of Hip Hop culture,” he explained. “I was attracted to the work I used to see as a child. As a teenager, I started practicing the art form. I’ve written my name on walls over 100 times.”

While some may see graffiti as a temporary, youthful art form, Nieves, who has a studio above the Standard Furniture building in Hammond, sees it as one that grows and evolves with the artists involved. “We call ourselves writers. We are writing our story on the wall using a language and approach developed to encourage personal growth,” he said. “As we grow individually and as a movement, what we write about matures. How we approach our productions on walls matures as well.”

Growing and maturing is how he would describe the Miller Beach area’s art community progress as well. “People make things happen. There is a sincere effort to promote creativity in Miller Beach. Historically, that community was recognized for its support of the arts,” Nieves said. “Today, the district is growing organically. Similar to a new raised (plant) bed in your backyard.”

“Developing art districts, in my opinion, is like gardening,” he continued. “It takes awareness, time and timing to raise that seedling. Some money has to be initially invested to ensure the plant has a healthy environment to land its roots. A healthy plant with good roots recovers that investment in crops!”

Nieves said the graffiti event is an invitational, adding that he’s personally painted with 90 percent of the participating artists. “Lake Effect 2013: Summer Expo is the ‘welcoming in’ of all the summer activities that are about to be in full swing,” he said. “We’re all familiar with the lake effect in winter. We wanted to highlight how appreciated Lake Michigan is in the summer.”

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Along with the graffiti event, Lake Effect 2013 will feature more than 50 other artists in the MBACD’s first Pop Up Event of year, live performances, food and a beer garden. Artist Tom Torleumke will have his work exhibited in the Marshall J. Gardner Center for the Arts.

Torleumke, an art professor at Indiana University Northwest, is a good friend of Nieve’s, who considers him a perfect fit for this event. “He’s very active in Indiana and Chicago as a successful artist,” Nieves said. “A little-known fact: Tom was the first judge of the Chicago CTA Graffiti Competitions in the early ‘90s.”

Karren Lee, president of the MBACD, said she couldn’t be more excited about this event. “Having Ish and 30 plus graffiti artists transform Lake Street into a work of art is one of the most exciting things that I can remember in the 46 years I’ve lived in Miller,” she enthused.

“I’ve seen-first-hand the impact that street art can have on a community when I visited Wynwood in Miami. The walls are beautiful, the streets are alive, and it has created the kind of buzz that the MBACD has been striving to do since its founding in 2011. It’s going to be a fun weekend and we hope that people will come out to lend their support to the artists, musicians, and participate in our 9th Pop Up Art event.”

Nieves concurred. “The MBACD has done a great job to create a platform where anyone who’s interested in the arts can come and enjoy themselves for the day,” he added. “Lake Street is closed off. There will be a stage for music, a beer tent, and vendors. Businesses will have artwork displayed in their storefronts. We’re creating an environment where you can spend an hour (here) and leave with a positive change in perspective for the environment.”

Lake Effect 2013 happens June 15 from noon – 8 p.m. Sponsored by the Miller Beach Arts & Creative District, it will also more than 20 graffiti artists plying their trade, more than 50 other artists displaying their works in the ninth annual Pop Up Art Event, live performances, food vendors and a beer garden. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information on Lake Effect 2013, visit millerbeacharts.org.

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Digital News Director

Laura is the digital news director at The Times. She spends her time watching analytics, keeping tabs on social media, creating graphics, etc. The Lansing native and Columbia College Chicago grad has been with The Times since 2012. No relation to Lois.