This past Saturday I took a tour of Detroit’s many murals hosted by Detroit Bikes. The ride began and ended at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Along the 20-or so mile route, we passed many forms of wall paintings and murals including lively tile installations, large portraits on an Albert Kahn building slated for demolition and well-designed, executed graffiti. It included various stops, including the Lincoln Street Art Park & Sculpture Garden, near the city’s new center area. There, riders had a chance to view up-close, many large-scale murals that were painted by well know Detroit graffiti artists such as Malt and Deco.
Another major stop was in Southwest Detroit. Buried deep within that close-knit neighborhood is an alley. It wasn’t the typical alley one would expect with overgrown weeds, old tires and other trash scattered about. No, the alley I’m referring to stretches a full city block and is home to colorful murals. It is all part of a community organization called The Alley Project or TAP.
TAP is a youth based initiative of Young Nation. Their mission is to promote the building of relationships through community education and outdoor projects of this type. The organization promotes self-expression through the creation of urban art. It also encourages and promotes individual responsibility by requiring their young members to clean-up and maintain the alley and surrounding area. They believe hands-on ventures, like TAP, will help urban young people learn and grow culturally and socially in a clean, safe, and legal environment.
The wall art on the garages and wooden fences lining the alley is amazingly diverse. There are monster sized, intricately designed graffiti masterpieces that feature flowing lines and letters that are almost impossible to read. Murals cover many of the garage doors facing the alley. The multitude of images varies from the solar system to a skeleton head surrounded by a vast array of bright colors. There are painted graphic designs that seem three-dimensional, a number of unusual caricatures and simple, yet powerful written messages.
The TAP project is located on Avis Street, a compact street full of small frame and brick homes. It runs between Woodmere and Eismere Streets. The alley can be entered through an art-filled common area off Avis St. that was created by the organization.