As I drove into Detroit for the first time I immediately noticed that the creative spirit is alive and well in the Motor City. In this auto-centric area, you don’t have to park your car to see breathtaking street art. It’s available free of charge on buildings, down alleyways, in parking garages and from 55 miles per hour. All of this outdoor art is possible in part because of the massive canvas potential that comes from the changing landscape. The rise and fall of the automobile industry hit Detroit hard, but the people here show off their resiliency as they reclaim empty spaces in new and creative ways.
It’s called the Z because it zigzags the corners of Broadway and East Grand River, and Library and Gratiot. The garage takes parking to the next level, thanks in part to The Belt, an alley art gallery between its two wings that features a rotating crop of pop-up exhibits. A collaboration between Gilbert’s Bedrock Real Estate Services and the Library Street Collective gallery, the team also brought in mural artists from as far away as Australia, Greece, Mexico, Ukraine and Switzerland to leave their permanent mark inside this artists’ United Nations of parking structures — and create something worthy of a special trip.
Since it began in the 1800s, Eastern Market has gradually become a cornerstone, nourishing its residents by providing fresh and nutritious food throughout Southeastern Michigan. In more recent years, Eastern Market Corporation has built an infrastructure around the market to support their unwavering mission to enrich Detroit—nutritionally, culturally and economically. This September 21st through the 28th, Eastern Market will host Murals In The Market. More than 50 local and international artists will be painting live throughout the district over the course of eight days in the third year of the city’s only international mural festival.
The Alley Project transformed a neighborhood alley and surrounding vacant lots into an inspirational graffiti art gallery with partners Young Nation and the Detroit Collaborative Design Center. Meanwhile, the Southwest Urban Arts Mural Project (SUAMP) in nearby Springwells Village, the heart of which is at the intersection of Springwells Street and Vernor Highway, focuses on the transformative power of hiring creative young people to reduce the blight around them.
Local businesses such as DTE Energy and Fresh-Pak commission murals to advertise or brighten up their buildings. Then neighborhood artists ranging in age from 14 to 23 earn an hourly wage for everything from writing business plans to designing murals to actually spraying and brushing the paint on the walls. During summer break, the artists work in teams to complete murals that extend over their heads and stretch a couple hundred feet down the street. They finish each piece with anti-graffiti sealant, but Christine Bell, who is the human development director for the SUAMP parent company, Urban Neighborhood Initiatives, said that would-be vandals respect the kids’ work. The result is one of Detroit’s densest collections of public murals. And also a way to engage kids creatively, allowing them to earn money for something they love doing.
Drawing 275,000 visitors annually, The Heidelberg Project is artist Tyree Guyton’s urban ode to diversity, discussion and taking action. “Medicine for the community,” he has said. Spanning two city blocks on the lower east side, the art installation has been heralded as Detroit’s Ghetto Guggenheim and was recently awarded the No. 4 spot in the USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice survey for Best Art District.
Along those same lines is the Dequindre Cut Greenway, a 1.35-mile railroad-turned-recreational path that links the riverfront to Eastern Market below street level. The paved path — with divided lanes for bike and foot traffic — is lined with murals, including the 15- by 100-foot Nature’s Wrath by Malt. In spring through fall, high-quality reproductions of masterpieces can be seen alongside the urban art — as well as in locations across the metro area — through the Detroit Institute of Arts’ (DIA) Inside|Out program.
Hey Girl, Hey! I’m Dāsha Guyton, an award winning Lifestyle Blogger and Wardrobe Stylist based in Hyde Park, Chicago. More importantly, I’m a body positive warrior and self-love advocate on a mission to help you curate experiences and a wardrobe you love. To get to know me and this blog better start here. You can also find my styling advice here on the blog and featured in every issue of Modest Truth Mag. Enough about me, let’s connect on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.