EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is featured in the Spring 2024 edition of The Tartan magazine. Read more from The Tartan at alma.edu/tartan.
A formerly drab alleyway located just north of the Wright Leppien Opera House Block in downtown Alma is now aglow with color and life, thanks to new mural that is in large part a tribute to Alma College.
Stephen ’80 and Susan (Humphreys) Meyer ’83 commissioned the new piece, titled “The Yaldi Mural,” painted over the summer by Detroit-based multimedia artist Charles “Chazz” Miller. The 55-by-15-foot mural depicts a number of “bonny” scenes from Scotland, including the sun rising over a glistening loch, purple heathers, fairy pools and the Old Man of Storr.
A closer look reveals even more figures that are sure to be appreciated by Alma College Scots, including the Highland Dancers and a bagpiper in full regalia. Stephen Meyer said the idea for the mural goes back to 2019, when the Opera House was dedicated following a $6.5-million restoration effort.
“When the Opera House opened, I thought there needed to be some finishing touches,” said Meyer, a trustee emeritus of the Board of Trustees. “It’s a beautiful facility that has already done so much for Alma College and its students, and I couldn’t help but think that it could be even more. We see time and time again that art brings people together. So, Susan and I thought, what better way to continue strengthening the relationship between the college and the city of Alma than to create art in this integral space?”
An Alma native, Stephen Meyer was originally put in contact with Miller by Amy (Edgar) Wellington ’87, a friend who also grew up in Alma and has worked in the art scenes of Lansing and Detroit for many years. The initial sketch from which the mural evolved was drafted by Meyer’s sister, Doris Balgoyen ’72. Ultimately worked into the design are a few images that are an homage to Meyer’s parents — the late Stephen and Helen Meyer, both of whom are integral parts of the history of Alma College and the city of Alma — and reflect the family’s interests and relationship to the city.
“I am not sure that myself, nor my sister or parents, could have imagined, during our time at Alma College, the level to which the city would be intertwined with the college,” Meyer said. “Students are living downtown, eating at restaurants and taking part in the community. Murals like these are the backdrop for all of this activity.”
Miller has created murals all over Michigan — including one, in 2021, in downtown Alma. It’s a flowery scene of butterflies, located just east of the Opera House mural and next to the Strand Theatre, which was supported by a grant from the Michigan Arts and Culture Council.
The Opera House mural took Miller, who paints his murals by hand, about 10 days to complete. He described it as a “fun” project, one that offered a lot of room for creativity while still focused on a distinct, positive message.
“The Meyer family gave me that theme and told me they wanted it bright and cheerful. That was enough for me to get started, and we just worked from there,” Miller said. “This is symbolic for Alma as it is going through an awakening. There’s a sunrise in this piece because this is a new day for the city and the college.”
Explore the many symbols, or “Easter eggs” hidden within the Yaldi Mural at alma.edu/yaldi.