The Street Art of Detroit

In recent years, graffiti and street art have become an important part of Detroit’s current revitalization efforts. You can find hundreds of colorful murals and sculptures decorating the city’s corridors and streets. There are projects like Heidelberg that have been around for years, but new murals like the ones in the Eastern Market District are popping up all the time. Including on my social media. I started looking through the ones most recently done at Eastern Market and knew that I was past due for a visit.

I left on a gloomy November evening and arrived at the bus station in a cold downpour at 10pm on a Friday, where I planned to spend the weekend at Hostel Detroit on the edge of the city’s up and coming Corktown neighborhood. It was a rad little place that I had enjoyed once before, and then suffered a post-wedding hangover (100% worth it, cause I take it for my friends). The hostel rented out cruiser bikes, one of which I left with early Saturday morning on my own self-guided art tour across the city.

Murals In the Market

I locked my bike on the edge of the Eastern Market, a bustling marketplace north of downtown, to check out all of this sweet ass shit. Last September, community organizers joined together and held the Murals In The Market, a nine day event where 45 different graffiti artists converged in the city and transformed the streets into a vast, colorful gallery of kickass murals. Paintings of all different colors and styles could be seen at every turn.

Some were twenty or thirty feet high, while others like “Maybe One Day” by Ron Zakrin were hidden behind back alley corners. The message of his work was a clear one: That maybe one day our machines of war will become artifacts, and the kids will play among them.

Other favorites included the one below by Hebru Brantley, a Chicago based artist who incorporates urban themed cartoon imagery into his work. There was Shark Toof, whom whether by mural, canvas or print, can bring many colorful, horrifying sharks to life.

Just look at that how devastating that mural is. That is an insane, raging red megalodon emerging from a sea of blood. It is the making of black metal albums, shattered femurs, radiation sickness, and nightmares. It could bite the head off of Moby Dick and shit out the pieces in a straight line. Unbelievable.

There were too many good murals to capture and name, but the work from Ron Zakrin, Hebru Brantley, Shark Toof, 0uizi, and fel3000ft as posted above was as brilliant as it was engaging. And there is plenty more to see on their website, muralsinthemarket.com. I got back on my bike and went along the bumpy side streets for a few miles to check out Heidelberg.

The Heidelberg Project

A neighborhood art project now thirty years in the making, the Heidelberg Project on the city’s east side is a living and breathing work of art in the community. It was founded by Tyree Guyton in 1986, who felt compelled to overcome the hardship and poverty in his neighborhood by using a paintbrush to transform his street into what we see today.

Despite having suffered a number of demolitions and counts of arson, the project continues to grow and thrive in spite of its setbacks. Its houses and sculptures have evolved and persevered; what has been razed has been built upon, and turned out to be some of my favorite places on the street. Like the basement I got a picture of below – formerly the Dollhouse – where a naked doll sits atop a church pulpit in front of some chairs and a large basket of blue shoes.

I spent an hour taking in hundreds of polka dots, stuffed animals, chairs, shoes, clocks, records, and cars. The skeleton and sign below was my favorite piece of the day. When I was finally done, I unlocked my bike from a traffic sign and rode it back across town.

To celebrate their 30th Anniversary, The Heidelberg Project will be hosting special events for the next 30 months. Info will be available on their website, heidelberg.org. You have no reason not to rent a bicycle, ride across town, and check it out.

I got back to the hostel in the late afternoon and walked down to Michigan Avenue, the main bustling corridor of Corktown, to get dinner. Slow’s BarBq was packed, as I figured it would be on a Saturday afternoon. I almost didn’t bother going in until some people came out and the scent of the place got the best of me and my inner carnivore. I hadn’t eaten all day and I was mad hungry. As in like, insane raging megalodon hungry. The day ended with some finely smoked brisket and Alaskan Pumpkin Ale.

Across the street, the red clouds of the winter sunset reflected from the newly installed windows of the Michigan Central Station. Inside, the lights of a freight elevator could be seen, like a symbol of things to come. Good things are happening in the Motor City, and its art scene is clearing the way.

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