Artist’s work is first step in upgrades to Aunt Sugar’s Farm & Uncle Pickle’s Barn gallery

SAGINAW, MICHIGAN – A new mural that helps tell the story of agriculture in Michigan and the Great Lakes Bay Region is now a permanent part of the Mid-Michigan Children’s Museum.

The mural, painted by Grand Rapids artist Michael Pfleghaar, is part of the museum’s Aunt Sugar’s Farm & Uncle Pickle’s Barn gallery and features fields of crops typically found in Michigan, including sugarbeets, pickles, corn, soybeans, wheat, potatoes, hay, pumpkins, and apples, as well as a farm with livestock and horses.

The addition of the mural is the first step in a project to upgrade the gallery, which was established when the museum opened through gifts from Michigan Sugar Company and Hausbeck Pickles & Peppers. Both companies have again made significant financial gifts to upgrade the gallery. Support for the project also comes from Dave Hausbeck Trucking and the Michigan Farm Bureau Foundation. The centerpiece of the upgrades will be a loft constructed inside the barn where children can play and access a new slide coming out of the barn. Additionally, there will be a new conveyor system and chute installed that children may use to move sugarbeets and pickles from the field to the market.

“The entire upgrade is designed to help better tell the story of agriculture, specifically how crops like sugarbeets and pickles get from the farm field to your table,” said Rob Clark, Director of Communications and Community Relations at Michigan Sugar Company. “Plus, a barn loft and slide are just fun for kids. We’re very excited to see how they interact in this refreshed space.”

Pfleghaar, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Grand Valley State University and his master’s degree from Lesley University College of Art and Design in Boston, said he is pleased with how the mural turned out.

“Whenever you get a chance to do something that will be viewed by a lot of people, there is a certain amount of pride involved with that,” he said. “It will be neat to see people in the space interacting with the work.”

Pfleghaar describes his artistic style as “folksy.”

“I like to take liberties and present the world how it can’t be seen through a photograph. I like to bring something new to the composition,” he said. “I often use distortion and play with perspective and color to create a unique vision of the world.”

He also commented on the demands of creating a large mural in a public space.

“The hard part was making it work logically but to present all the different crops we wanted to represent. Technically, it was just transposing that to the wall,” he said. “Scale is the biggest issue when you’re doing something like this. It’s more physical. It encompasses your entire peripheral vision. You have to step back and look at it. It’s different than working on a piece in the studio.

“I was pleased I was able to translate the vision in my head to the wall.”

Mid-Michigan Children’s Museum Interim President Anne Flegenheimer said she could not be happier with the new mural.

“It was fascinating to watch the detailed work put into making the mural the standout, eye-catching piece it is,” she said. “The fact that you can see the mural from across the museum as you first walk into the main gallery area is something I didn’t expect. It adds so much to the space. The attention Michael gave to all of the details makes it fun to take in from all angles.”

Lori Hausbeck, Executive Projects Manager at Hausbeck Pickles & Peppers, said she envisions families interacting with the new mural in fun ways.

“I can see parents and their children playing little eye-spy and counting games for sure,” she said. “A parent might ask their child, ‘how many clouds do you see,’ ‘can you find the fox in the painting,’ ‘or point to the pumpkin patch.’ There are endless possibilities and what’s really great is that all of this interaction will not only be fun for kids, but it will be educational.”

Flegenheimer said plans are being made to re-open the Mid-Michigan Children’s Museum to the public. The museum has been temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are aiming for a re-opening on Tuesday, May 4, with limited hours after that,” Flegenheimer said. “I encourage everyone to watch our Facebook page for updates and check our website at for more details.”

Work to upgrade the rest of the Aunt Sugar’s Farm & Uncle Pickle’s Barn gallery is expected to get underway in the coming weeks and should be completed by July 4, 2021. The museum is working with ZENTX Media Group of Freeland to complete the upgrades.

“We are grateful to Michigan Sugar Company, Hausbeck Pickles & Peppers, Dave Hausbeck Trucking, and the Michigan Farm Bureau Foundation for their incredible commitment to our museum and this gallery,” said Flegenheimer. “We can’t wait to unveil the upgraded farm and barn and we are confident that children and their families will love it.”