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Bethlehem native featured in art show

Mike Luttinen has always been drawn to art. Now, his art is being seen in a new way, as Luttinen was a finalist in Allentown’s inaugural Go with the Flow Inlet Mural Painting Contest, with his entry on display in Allentown Arts Park at 24-32 N. Fifth St.

“I’ve always drawn my whole life,” Luttinen said. “It wasn’t until about five years ago I started focusing more on my art.”

Luttinen is an artist originally from Bethlehem who now lives in Lower Saucon Township.

“My design is a drain pipe coming from a city with water pouring out and fish in it, to show how the city as a whole can affect our ecosystem,” Luttinen said.

“I saw this competition as an opportunity to put my artwork in a public place that might impact someone passing by, or kids playing in the park.”

According to the City of Allentown’s website https://www.allentownpa.gov/Home/News-Details/ID/1818/Allentowns-1st-Annual-Inlet-Mural-Painting-Contest, artists were invited to participate in the Stormwater Inlet Mural Art Contest, which “aims to call attention to the small but significant pieces of infrastructure – 8,800 inlets in Allentown, that connect our streets to our streams. By creating captivating murals, artists will raise awareness about the detrimental effects of pollution flowing with rainwater, emphasizing its impact on the health of our environment.”

Participating artists and artist groups were required to submit their applications and sketch designs by Aug. 1, and the city selected and notified nine finalists by Aug. 31.

Finalists then painted their designs on one of nine pre-identified inlet grates in the Arts Park, each measuring a 3 by 4-foot rectangular area. The city provided paint, sealant, brushes, stirrers and any safety materials. Murals had to be completed by Oct. 15.

Several people told Luttinen about the contest. “I came up with the design, submitted it, and a few weeks later they let me know I was a finalist.”

Luttinen said it took him 8 to 10 hours over a couple of days to complete his mural.

“I painted the outline, then brought it home and finished the water, fish, etc., then brought it back, laid it down and made sure the drain was painted,” Luttinen said. “It’s pretty much like sticker work on here and at home.”

Luttinen studied commercial art at Bethlehem Area Vocational-Technical School, and then print and web design at Northampton Community College.

“I still drew, but I started painting five years ago and had my first art show in Allentown. I stepped it up with painting,” Luttinen said.

“I focus more on painting projects such as this and murals, including some for businesses.”

“I’m close to my family – they support me in my art,” Luttinen said.

His family includes mom Kim Johnson, stepdad Joe Johnson, brother Dylan Kurtz and both his grandmothers, Linda Kurtz and Susan Schaeffer, who helped him lay down his mural at the park.

Luttinen also very much appreciated the encouragement of his dad, Michael Luttinen Sr., who passed away a few years ago. “My dad was my number one supporter when I started out,” he said, helping him in ways such as going with him to his shows in Philadelphia.

“While my family is supportive and my Grandma Susan and my dad did help out when he was here for the most part, I do all of it – finding opportunities, painting and everything by myself,” Luttinen said. “They just give support and a hand with events when they can.”

Luttinen has a couple pieces of art on display at The Buren Restaurant in Brooklyn, N.Y., and had a pop show at Pancakes and Booze Art Show at the Underground Arts, Philadelphia from 7 p.m. to midnight on Nov. 30.

Luttinen works in service at Lehigh Valley Honda, “but my goal is to do this full time.”

“I do street art and murals, custom work, logos and a lot of portrait work – a little bit of everything.”

Luttinen’s mural is signed Caddy Mike for a reason. “It’s my artist name. I used to have a big old Cadillac, so my friends started calling me Caddy Mike and I stuck with the name over the years.”

Allentown Mayor Matt Tuerk explained on the city website, “Our team wanted to find a creative and innovative way to increase awareness of environmental issues. We’re massive supporters of the arts, so this was a great way for us to combine the two, as well as provide a unique opportunity for artists to leave a unique and lasting impact on our city. I’m so excited to see how Allentown’s brilliant arts community will unleash their creativity and present solutions to inspire a cleaner and healthier Allentown.”

The public was able to vote online for their favorite murals through Nov. 4. The votes determined the first and second place prize winners, who were recognized as Clean Stormwater Champions at the city’s Stormwater Stewardship Awards during the City of Allentown’s Mayorthon 2023 on Nov. 11. The event included games, music, vendors, giveaways, pasta, beverages and a walk-through/gallery tour of the murals.

Though Luttinen didn’t place first or second in the contest, “I still enjoyed doing the project,” he said.

For information on purchasing Luttinen’s art or custom work visit his website runeverydollar.com/ and keep up to date with his artwork on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/CaddyMike610/.

Press photos by Tami Quigley Mike Luttinen next to his entry, a finalist in Allentown's annual Go with the Flow Inlet Mural Painting Contest Oct. 18 at Allentown Arts Park
Luttinen's design is a drain pipe coming from a city with water pouring out and fish in it, to show how the city as a whole can affect our ecosystem. It is signed Caddy Mike, his artist name.