DETROIT: Art Attack !!??

14 Oct

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These days much of the news coming out of Detroit is positive; new businesses are opening, people are moving into the city, a new hockey arena is being built, neighborhoods are being revitalized, urban farming is a real thing. Midtown and Corktown are often the center of attention. To me Eastern Market is the heart of Detroit, it’s the place people gather to buy their food, pumpkins, their Christmas tree. Folks meet up for breakfast, lunch or dinner, eat at communal tables, have a coffee, a cocktail, view amazing art; it’s the place everyone feels welcome. Recently Eastern Market Corporation, 1xRun and Inner State Gallery invited 45 local and international artists to create large-scale murals all over the district for a 9 day event called Murals In The Market.

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The artists have arrived in Detroit, painting has begun; spectators are welcome. Designated walls are a blank canvas of black or white. Electric scissor lifts have taken over the streets as artists drive them to their specified locations. Walking from one block to the next we see the beginnings of murals taking shape, details are sketched in black spray painted lines, artists are perched precariously on ladders. Curious onlookers include local workers, amateur photographers, and random passersby. At Orleans and Adelaide Patch Whisky and Ghost Beard are nearly finished with their mural, Whisky’s signature character is chasing Beard’s monster on a multi-hued wall. Dozens of aerosol paint cans represent every color of the rainbow–and then some, gallon cans, rollers and paint trays lay on the ground. It’s just the beginning.

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Six days later we’re back in the market, this time for Eastern Market After Dark, part of the 4th Annual Detroit Design Festival. A night of open houses at creative venues in the district, it’s one of our favorite events of the year. In addition to the festivities, we’re checking out the murals. We start the evening with a Chili Mexican from Germack, just outside, at the corner of Russell and Adelaide Hebru Brantley has finished his mural, a super-cool flamed and lowered Caddy is parked in front. Images of a youthful super hero in goggles cover the wall; soon models sidle up to the wall as a photographer shoots photos. In Shed 2 we pass through the Jeep display and couches wearing extravagant paint jobs on our way back to the streets, the sun is already lower in the sky.

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Naturel has finished a piece titled “Teach A Man To Fish”, a colorful ‘fly’ hovers on a textured wall, Denial’s comic-book-style art fills an entire wall with bold colors. “Nothing Stops Detroit” literally stops Kris in his tracks–he recognizes the vehicle in the painting as a Dodge Deora, he points out the fact the actual vehicle was customized by Detroit’s own Alexander Brothers back in the day, I like the way the letters resemble neon, oh and the car too… Ouizi has turned a building on Orleans into a flower garden, I love it! Further on a pair of faces are still in progress, artists have gone home for the day.

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We have wandered as far as the new section of the Dequindre Cut; pavement has been laid, light posts illuminate freshly planted trees. Bridges crossing the Cut are newly paved and open to traffic. Construction equipment is quiet for the night, water towers and old industrial buildings complete the landscape. The mural project has expanded the footprint of the market, drawing people further into the district; good things are happening here. Up the street a huge Great White shark emerges from a sea of red, mouth agape, rows of teeth are frightening; this is Los Angeles artist Shark Toof’s second shark mural in the market. Around the corner the scene is more mellow, colorful shapes and designs somehow remind me of biology. The sun has set, the crowds grow thicker, Ren Cen glows in the distance. Artists continue their work aided by flood lights.

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A week has gone by, we’re back in the market to see the completed murals. A two-story house in blue stands alone in an open field, pretty patterns cover the exterior walls, around the corner, an unexpected image of a Victorian home, a man’s profile, lovely. We take in scene after scene, people with cameras are everywhere, another photo shoot is taking place, this time in front of Ouizi’s flower wall. There are shapes, portraits, landscapes and designs, characters like the striking image of the woman in the black-fringed hat. Murals reflect Detroit, Eastern Market–check out the corner of Riopelle and Winder. A Panda DJ gets our attention, further down the alley Ron Zakrin has created a scene in which children play on swings hanging from an abandoned tank, a peace sign painted prominently on the side, a field of flowers grows nearby, the caption: “Maybe one day”. Street by street we view the murals; we stand in awe, get lost in our thoughts, smile, laugh and become mesmerized by the beauty, creativity and thoughtfulness of the pieces. Art stirs emotions.  Back on Russell Street. Fel3000ft has completed his angel of Detroit, she gently mends the heart of the city, indeed, we are a city on the mend.

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 Just a little bit of ground left to cover over on Gratiot. Jeff Soto and Maxx242 have filled a wall with surreal roses surrounding skulls, a spray can in the center, resting on a beast–I recognize the eye from the first day we were here, it was the only section completed. A pair of canines are split by a waterfall, industrious bees build a honeycomb; you have to work a little harder here to see everything, but it’s worth the walk. Detroit is quickly becoming an exciting, vibrant center for street art, attracting artists and visitors alike from near and far. Come see it for yourself!

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