Joe Schipani A Passion for Flint


Producer. Novelist. Writer. Executive Director. These are just a few of the titles held by Joseph Schipani who is well known in Greater Flint. He is most known for his passion for helping improve Flint and surrounding communities. “I enjoy doing things to make Flint better and putting smiles on people’s faces,” he shares.

Schipani and his partner Phillip Barnhart moved to Flint from the Metro Detroit area in early 2007.
“I love Flint!” he exclaims. “We have been here for 16 years and it feels like home.” After earning his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Theatre Design at UM-Flint, he then continued his education at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, earning a Master of Public Administration degree.

When he came to Flint, Schipani became instantly involved in making it a better place, working very closely and passionately with the city’s robust artist community. He is Executive Director of the Flint Public Art Project (FPAP), and has been an involved advocate since its inception in 2013. His work with the FPAP Mural Project has included spending much time going to neighborhoods looking for ways to beautify abandoned buildings, finding spaces for murals and artists to paint them.

“We’ve transformed blight into something beautiful until a permanent solution comes along.”
– Joseph Schipani

The project has benefited both the city and the many artists who have contributed their talents. “We’ve transformed blight into something beautiful until a permanent solution comes along,” he notes. The Mural Project is still ongoing with more than 300  beautiful and thought-provoking pieces now completed throughout the City of Flint and connecting cities. “Our goal was to get people to cross borders and check out the murals that have already been completed,” Schipani explains. He expects 30-35 more murals to be painted in the near future adding that the current project grant is closing out and they are looking for new funding. Another project Schipani is working on this year will allow people from all over the world to enjoy the Flint murals through a VR/AR experience being created by MXD World.

For the last five years, Schipani has been a project assistant in the grant-funded Flint Leverage Points Project, which was created to find ways to improve the process of food delivery and reduce food insecurity. “I spent four years studying the food systems in Flint and how they work,” he shares. The project’s goal is to identify challenges and increase access to healthy food for people in the City of Flint and surrounding Genesee County communities. Schipani also wants to remove the stigma associated with food assistance. Now that the project has been completed, the Crim Fitness Foundation helped establish the Flint & Genesee Food Policy Council to put the Flint Leverage Points Project into action.

Also a writer and novelist, Schipani co-authored a spooky and entertaining book in 2020 with Roxanne Rhoads entitled Haunted Flint. The book offers accounts of Flint’s sinister history, haunted buildings, ghosts, eerie encounters and unexplained sightings. Volume II, Ghosts and legends of Genesee & Lapeer Counties was released last September. Schipani was also executive producer of the 2022 horror movie, “Half Dead Fred” which was filmed in Flint and presented the city’s many murals, businesses and locations in a positive light. Schipani was also a member of the cast, playing the minor role of “James.”

Flint is very special to Schipani. “It has a sense of community which often gets lost in bigger cities,” he shares. “Flint is like a small town in a big city. Everybody works so well together.” He and his partner live in Flint’s Carriage Town area, one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods. “The house we live in has housed over 100 artists throughout the years,” he shares.

“Flint is truly a grassroots community that thrives because of the people who live in it. Where I find the need, that’s where I will go.”
– Joseph Schipani

Of all his civic involvement, it is the Flint Public Art Project that holds a special place in Schipani’s heart. “And, it’s not all me,” he notes, adding that its success is the result of a whole team that does a whole lot of work. The talented team includes Sandra Branch, Kevin Burdick, Annette O’Malley, Johnny Fletcher and Charlie Boike. “All of the artists and the team keep things going,” he adds. “Many artists have contributed and have done a lot of behind-the-scenes work.”

In his spare time, Schipani enjoys spending time with the artists, writing and playing with his dogs – a Dalmatian and a Boxer, Leo and Mac. “They are the best dogs ever!” he exclaims. He also enjoys watching the murals being created and just hanging out, sitting on the porch and talking with people. “I’ve seen a whole lot of networking happen,” he says.

The future is bright for this passionate man who cares so much about his community. “I plan to write more, continue working with the FPAP and to give Flint more of a global presence,” he says. “Flint is truly a grassroots community that thrives because of the people who live in it. Where I find the need, that’s where I will go.”


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