There is a park I’ve ridden past hundreds of times on my bicycle rides, but until recently I hadn’t paid much attention to it. It’s a small park, about a quarter-mile deep and 100-yards wide. It bumps up to East Jefferson Avenue on the north, and from there it extends south to the Detroit River. The little green space, named Owen Park is bordered on the east by an abandoned apartment building and a well-maintained, multi-story apartment building on the west.
Although there are two washed out dirt roads leading into the park, there is really no defined entrance. Cars and vans just hop the curb and take one of two dirt roads to the riverfront. Spotting a car doing this the other day is what drew my attention to the not so well maintained park. Watching the car slowly work its way across the sidewalk to the riverfront (where fishermen were casually tending to their poles), I decided to take a ride down to the river as well.
Road into Owen Park from Jefferson Avenue
One of things I noticed right away when riding the rutted road to the river, was the lack of trees. There were few of them in the overgrown park, and those few were clustered close to the river. Another thing I noticed was a couple of vintage streetlights standing in a grassy area. I assume that section once had a road winding through it. Although the lights at the top of the beautiful old posts were dangling by their wiring, the old streetlights were in remarkably good shape.
As I approached the small cluster of trees near the river’s edge, I was completely surprised at what I saw within the tiny wooded area. Painted on a mounted piece of plywood that was cut to resemble a house of sorts, were the words “Native American Art Gallery”. The background of the sign had a Jackson Pollock painted look to it, and the abstract colors were overlaid with paintings of various Native American symbols, including the legendary, iconic Thunderbird.
Art gallery sign located under the park trees
Just beyond the sign were a series of other painted panels mounted to posts that looked as if they were recently put into the ground. There were approximately 8-10 Native American type paintings mounted to the various poles. One was a rendering of the State of Michigan, color-coded by the various tribes found throughout the state. The biggest surprise at the outdoor gallery were the panels that featured the work of Sintex, a well-known and respected Detroit graffiti artist whose work is featured on many buildings and walls in the city.
A variety of paintings in the park
Rendering of state map, color coded by tribes
Native American portrait by graffiti artist Sintex
Thunderbird painting by Sintex
Looking around the outdoor gallery, I saw quite a few of the fresh poles. They lined the edge of the treed area and dirt roadway leading to the river, in preparation (I assume) for more painted panels of Native American art. I don’t know what organization or individual(s) is behind this installation. However, I can guess this little open-air art space under the trees in Owen Park will eventually evolve into an outdoor education center, which will be based on the state’s rich Native American heritage.
Poles in place for future art panels
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