Detroit is an odd place at times. It is full of funny signs, quirky streets, unusual people and colorful, bizarre buildings. The more I ride my bike throughout the City of Detroit, the more I have to shake my head in disbelief at what I see while thinking to myself, “What the hell is that?” Such was the case a few weeks ago when I stumbled upon a heap of painted dirt. Yes, a pile of multi-colored pastel painted dirt.
I discovered the painted mound while revisiting an abandoned playground in a middle of a field; a field I presume where a school may once have been. When I first spotted the playground a couple of summers ago, I was struck by its subtle beauty, partly because of its isolated location. The streets leading to it have been barricaded and the area surrounding it, like many other parcels of vacant land in Detroit I often see, have become a beautiful, wind-blown grassland. While exploring that tiny island of overgrown green space in the heart of the city, I felt a sense of calmness and peacefulness. It was as if I could hear the high-pitched voices and laughter of excited kids running and laughing.
The playground had a cement slab in the middle, and at that time, it was marked with basketball court lines. There were also basketball rims mounted on metal poles still in place. They anchored both ends of the court. A few remnants of brightly colored, children-sized plastic playground equipment, that looked to be in fair condition, were in a section just off the court. There was nothing else but open land and tall grass all around.
On my latest visit to the site I noticed big changes. The basketball hoops and poles were gone. The poles had been cut off and removed, probably the work of metal scrappers. Surprisingly, there was an arrow-head design painted on the court in a pastel-red shade, with white stripes and diamonds running through. It was similar to something one might see on an airport landing strip. The small playground equipment was destroyed and the once open fields to the north are now piled with dirt. It was as if it were in a holding zone for some sort of construction project. It was there, amongst the many piles of dirt and cement debris, I spotted the painted dirt.
At first glance I saw a little spot of bright blue and I thought it was trash mixed within the sand colored mound. Taking a closer look I could see other colors. So I rode over for a better look and was amazed at the array of colorful hues I saw. There was an unusual mixture of bright blues and greens, bold yellows, and subtle pinkish pastels. This didn’t appear to be random paint dumped in an abandoned field. It looked as if it was done by design. I can only speculate, but I’m thinking it was the work of a street artist, and that artist painted both the basketball court and the colorful pile of dirt and debris.