Real life is underscoring art in a Midwest town even more poignantly than Paul Simon imagined. Simon and Garfunkel's famous tune "America" recounts a young man's journey from the working class Michigan town of Saginaw to seek his fortunes elsewhere. Now the song's bittersweet lyrics have turned up on vacant buildings and shuttered factories to become a comment on the dying hopes of small town America. "A few years ago, me and my friends decided to go around the city and start painting the boarded-up buildings and storefronts," mural painter Eric Schantz tells NPR. "That ended up building into kind of an underground, grass-roots group called Paint Saginaw."
Schantz is disheartened by the falling fortunes of his hometown that was hit hard by the closing of a General Mills plant. "America has become a homesick song for Saginawians," Schantz says. "The city was once vastly populated, with a couple hundred thousand people — and now it's below 50,000. People left to go find their America, to pursue their American dream. And when they left, they never really came back, 'cause there wasn't really much to come back to." For photos of spots in Saginaw with the lyrics, click here.
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