I see plenty of wall art on my bicycle rides. Some of the many pieces found on the walls of Detroit are colorful, abstract in design, and the execution can be flawless. Others incorporate monsters, birds and historical figures. I’ve also seen lively cartoon characters that cover the sides of walls.

Recently I revisited a site to show a friend a specific piece of wall art on an adjoining building. While poking around that area I spotted a set of painted dancers that I had completely forgotten about. They were painted about a year ago on a couple of interior cement block walls of a roofless building that is in major disrepair. On those walls are five well done paintings of ballet dancers.

Looking at them I was reminded of how captivating they are. They feature well-proportioned flowing lines of the bodies, which seems to create motion and movement. Their legs are well-toned, elegant, and positioned much like a dancer you’d see on stage. The wall paintings also feature long, thin flowing arms that create the look of a graceful maneuver found in a sophisticated dance routine or ballet pose. One of the wall pieces is a side view portrait of a dancer’s head that is simple in design, yet realistic in appearance.

Portrait of Dancer_1819

One of the things I really like about these wall paintings is the emotion and lifelike movements the pieces seem to deliver. I also like that they are all two-color paintings. Looking at them, it is easy to imagine the hard work, training, concentration, and effort real dancers must go through on a daily basis during their careers. Everything about them expresses movement, excitement, and elegance.

B:W Dancer on white background_1817

Blk:Blue Dancer_1816

Blk:Purple Dancer_1814

B:W Dancer on Red Background_1818

Kudos goes out to the talented artist that created these engaging dancers on a wall in Detroit.

Fall’s Long Shadows

I like the sun’s lighting in the fall. It seems brighter, crisper, and the light it gives off doesn’t appear as harsh as the summer months. This time of year the sun also seems to rise and set much slower than in the warm months. The sun is also lower in the sky and its lower angle casts interesting shadows that crisscross the landscape, creating intriguing shapes and patterns.

Light Pole w:Hook_1674

Tree w:Sign Shadow_1765

Pole Shadow_1699

The early morning and late afternoon shadows appear highly symmetrical or linear. They can also be fuzzy and distorted casting a shadow that appears much like an expressionist or abstract expressionist painting.  Many of the shadows generated by the crisp fall sunshine often do not represent their origin. A steel fence could look like a simple grid pattern painted on cement. A street lamp could appear as an ancient battle-axe, or the ribbing of a park bench may take on the look similar to a chess board.

Shadow Stripes _1755

Light Pole Shadow_1770

Signs and Poles_1678

Like most urban bicycle riders, I’m tuned into vehicle traffic and the surrounding environment while riding. I also keep a sharp eye to the road, always looking out for pot holes, broken glass, or other debris. So I notice the shadows more and I like how they spread out in front of me or shoot off into the distance on either side of me. There are plenty of captivating shadows this time of year and many seem to stretch out forever. They can be quite a sight!

Long Shadow w:Bike _1693

Long Bike Shadow1738

Overpass Shadow_1771

The weather this past weekend in Detroit was perfect. The temps were in the 70’s, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and I couldn’t think of better way to enjoy it than out on a bicycle aimlessly riding around. With no particular destination in mind I headed to the Dequindre Cut Greenway (a former railroad line) and rode its length from Gratiot Avenue, south to the Riverwalk. Once on the Riverwalk, I headed east along the Detroit River to where it ends at Mt. Elliot. From there I worked my way over to the Belle Isle Bridge and headed out to the island for a 5-mile loop around.

It was a peaceful morning on the island with little traffic but plenty of other cyclists, runners and walkers. Although the trees and other foliage were still pretty green, I did see a smidgen of autumn colors pushing their way in. Red Tree B Isle_1450

From Belle Isle I rode over the Detroit’s Historic West Village Neighborhood. That neighborhood and others that adjoin it along East Jefferson, is known as the Villages. The Villages were part of the weeklong Detroit Design Festival, and a good number of the design studios had open houses. Along with that, many of the unique shops found in that neighborhood participated in an open-air marketplace. A new coffee-house called Red Hook opened its doors, joining a bunch of new restaurants found in West Village.

Red Hook Coffee_1452

Leaving there, I went downtown and headed north on Woodward Avenue where construction is under way for the new M1 light rail system. Dodging plenty of orange barrels, I came upon the new Red Wings Arena District that just broke ground a couple days prior. Although the construction zone was fenced off, they were allowing people to visit the site and skate on a synthetic ice rink that was ringed by large shipping containers. The containers featured large photos and images of the Detroit Red Wings. In addition to the Red Wings graphics, a few had colorful graffiti works painted by local street artists.

Synthetic Ice Rink_1461 Red Wings Photos Arena_1463

Hockey Arena Graf Container_1464

Detroit’s nighttime festival of lights, called Dlectricity, lit up Midtown on both Friday and Saturday nights. The light show featured over 30 world-renowned artists. Much of their work was featured on the exterior sides of buildings throughout the neighborhood, including the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Detroit Public Library, College For Creative Studies, the brick wall on a building at Warren and Woodward Avenues, the Garfield Building, and many others. As I soon found out, getting around the neighborhood (with mobs of cars and people) was a breeze on a bicycle.

Dlectricity at DIA_1430The Dlectricity event also featured a Light Bike Parade Saturday night, and over 2,000 riders participated. Most (if not all) of the bikes were decorated with flashing lights and other glowing devices. The night parade zigzagged its way along a 4-mile route throughout the Midtown neighborhood.

Decorated Bikes Parade_1475

The night ended with the Unofficial Dlectricity Afterparty at the Lincoln Street Artpark. That event kicked off at 11:00 p.m. and didn’t end until the sun came up. The party featured live bands, light shows, a huge bonfire, and Classic Sci-Fi movies shown in the Catawampus bus. It’s always an interesting night at the Art Park and the afterparty was no exception.

Eno Piece Lincoln Street_1484

Cata Bus_8134

While bicycling around the streets of Detroit on this busy weekend, I also managed to pick up number 26 of 3,000 of the “Stay Classy” black tie art pieces that were scattered across the city. They seemed to be everywhere I went on Saturday and most were gone by late Sunday afternoon.

Blk Tie_1501

As I have pointed out in past entries on the amusing signs I’ve spotted on my bicycle rides, Detroit is an interesting place full of strange signs. Many are hand drawn on discarded chunks of plywood or other pieces of scrap wood. A few are full of misspellings, and they are sometimes hung or placed in the most bizarre locations. Some are quite humorous in their messages, while others are almost impossible to read because the letters have run or dripped into each other because too much paint was used to create them.

Note the spelling above the door

Note the spelling above the door and check out the tires on the roof

This is how to change the name

This is how to change a sign in Detroit

In this entry, the seventh in an occasional series on Detroit’s quirky signs, I’ve posted a few of the most recent ones I’ve spotted on my rides. Despite the content and hard-to-read messaging found on a few, I do admire the drive and persistence of the many grass-root business entrepreneurs found along the city’s major commercial strips and within the neighborhoods. They are doing what they need in order to advertise their goods and services.

Take a look!

Most of the time this place is closed when I go by

Most of the time this place is closed when I go by

This could be a challenge unless you have a drone

This could be a challenge unless you have a drone

Buy the couch and get a FREE house

I guess you buy the couch and get a FREE house

On a sign post along Cass Ave

Philosophy on a sign post along Cass Ave

This entry is the seventh of an occasional blog entry on the amusing signs of Detroit. To view the other’s in this series, click on the headlines below.

Amusing Signs of Detroit

Amusing Signs of Detroit – Part 2

Amusing Signs of Detroit – Part 3

Amusing Signs of Detroit – Part 4

Amusing Signs of Detroit – Part 5

Amusing Signs of Detroit – Part 6

Remember, you can click on any image to view them larger.

Green Bike Lanes

Over the past few years there has been a tremendous amount of bike lanes painted on the streets of Detroit. They can be found throughout Southwest Detroit, Midtown, the east side and other sections of the city. It wasn’t long ago that it was rare to see any at all. Now they seem to be everywhere, including some of the inner suburbs, as I noticed over the weekend when I rode out to Ferndale. As I rode along Livernois Avenue from Detroit and approached the intersection of 8-Mile Road, I could see green bike lanes up ahead, something I haven’t seen before.

Well market bike lane

Well marked bike lane

From what I understand, the painted sections of the bike lanes lining Livernois between 8 and 9 Mile roads indicate conflict points. The conflict points are sections of the street where cars and bike riders have a likely chance of meeting, such as a cross street. The bright green painted sections of the lengthy bike lanes are designed to alert and bring awareness to both vehicle drivers and bike riders.

Livernois and 8-mile green lane indicates caution for both cars and bicyclists

The Livernois and 8-Mile green lane indicates caution for both cars and bicyclists

The green sections are in addition to fresh looking buffered bike lanes along the avenue. The buffer lanes are  stripped lines that look to be at least 30” wide that are located between the car lanes (or curbs) and the actual bike lanes. They act as a buffer zone between the bike and traffic lanes adding safety to the riders.

Buffered lanes leading to a busy intersection

Buffered lane leads to a busy intersection

Green bike lane directs riders out of the turn lane at 9-Mile

This one directs riders out of the turn lane at 9-Mile

Another nice feature of the well-marked lanes along Livernois in Ferndale is the presence of bike racks. They are incorporated on the curb side of Livernois on both sides. That seems to encourage commuting to work, school, etc. via bicycle. It also implies a bike friendly environment. It was nice to see and ride along the well thought out bike route that incorporates signage, well-defined painted lanes and bicycle racks.  Overall, the lanes also create a strong sense of safety for bike riders like me. Good job, Ferndale.

Bike rack along Livernois

Bike rack along Livernois

9-Mile Road in Ferndale also has bike racks

9-Mile Road in Ferndale also has bike racks

Dally in the Alley

Detroit’s premier street party was this past Saturday. It’s called Dally in the Alley, and it’s been held continuously for 37 years. The one-day event takes place in a series of alleys and streets that have been cornered off in the city’s Cass Corridor area near Wayne State University. The annual free event features four stages of continuous music, as well as a bunch of vendors selling art, t-shirts, clothing, vinyl records, and plenty of food and drinks.

One of many rock and roll bands that played

One of many rock and roll bands that played

Vendors lined the streets

Vendors lined the streets

Detroit themed wooden blocks were for sale

Detroit themed wooden blocks were for sale

The alleys and surrounding streets (bounded by Hancock, Forest, Second and Third Avenues) were jammed packed with thousands of people. Families, college students, aging hippies, artists, and many others were all there having a good time listening to the music and wandering through the alleys checking out what the vendors had to sell. It’s a diverse, interesting crowd that attends the annual party, making for a great day of people watching.

Everyone loved this cute little hula hoop girl

Everyone loved this cute little hula hoop girl

The alleys were packed

The alleys were packed

 More and more people jammed the area as it got later

More and more people jammed the area as the day wore on

The street party runs to midnight and it seemed the later it got, more and more people flowed into the already crowded streets and alleys. Around 10 p.m. there were some fireworks. Not the usual 4th of July type stuff. A utility pole in the center of the alleys started popping. The pole caught on fire and the fire was followed by sparks and loud, bright explosions.

Luckily organizers spotted the fire before the explosions took place and were able to herd people out of the area before the Detroit fire department arrived. It was surreal standing there watching, especially when about sixty percent of the people around me automatically pulled out their iPhones to record what was going on.

Because of the imminent danger of falling wires, the Dally in the Alley party was cut short much to the chagrin of attendees, vendors and the bands that were scheduled to perform. Based on past Dally’s, I thought the fire was some sort of torch and part of the happenings. It’s always an interesting event, and this year’s was no exception.

Plenty of colorful Dally signs throughout

Plenty of colorful Dally signs throughout

Colorful vendor  booths were everywhere

Brightly decorated  vendor booths were everywhere

Four stages of diverse music

Four stages of diverse music

One of many unusual displays

One of many unusual clothing displays

At one time, many of the buildings that lined some of Detroit’s busiest commercial streets had colorful hand painted signs on the sides of them. The signs promoted a variety of goods such as flour, clothing, soft drinks, auto parts, and many other items. Due to our harsh winter climate and the hot, bright sun of summer, many of the old signs found on the city’s older buildings are slowly fading away.

Several of the oldest signs I’ve spotted on my bicycle rides throughout the city go back at least 100 years, maybe further. Because of their age and exposure to the ever-changing outdoor weather, the flowing, stylish letters that were popular on the signs at that time are now almost impossible to read. Other signs out there feature decorative, one-of-a-kind illustrations that emphasize a particular product. Those, too, are also fading into the brick walls on which they are painted.

Note how the ovals around the name and treasure chest complement each other

Note how the ovals around the name and treasure chest complement each other

Vintage Carhartt ad slowly being sucked into the brick

Vintage Carhartt ad is slowly fading into the brick

In earlier entries of this occasional series of Detroit’s fading wall signs, I’ve posted numerous photos of the old beauties. Sadly, a few of them have been lost since then because the buildings on which they were painted have been torn down. Also, a few others have been vandalized with spray paint, leaving only partial sections of the original elements visible.

Here is another set of fading sign photos I’ve taken on my bicycle rides in Detroit. I’m always amazed on how complex some of the aged hand painted signs were back then. I can only imagine what they must have looked like when they were freshly painted.

This beauty is is in remarkably good shape

This beauty is in remarkably good shape

Right out of the Art Deco period

Right out of the Art Deco period

Look near the bottom, you can spot another faded sign

Near the bottom is another faded sign

Simple block letters

Simple block letters

You can check out the previous entries in this series by clicking on the links below.

Fading Wall Signs

Fading Wall Signs – Part 2

Fading Wall Signs – Part 3

Fading Wall Signs – Part 4

Fading Wall Signs – Part 5


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