Posts Tagged ‘colorful murals’

There are some interesting portraits on a couple of old, historic buildings in Detroit. They are big, beautiful, colorful paintings of historical, influential, political, and literary Detroiters.

I first noticed them about a year ago on a 3-story building on Grand River Avenue near I-94. The portraits on the building caught my eye as I was riding my bicycle up the avenue. The old turn of the century brick building is home to 16 impressive portraits that include Chief Pontiac, former mayor Hazen Pingree, community activist Grace Boggs, former Detroit city council member Maryann Mahaffey, Rosa Parks, Jazz composer Yusef Lateef, and many others. They are installed in the window openings of the building.

Grand River Avenue portrait gallery

Grand River Avenue portrait gallery

Maryann Mahaffey - former Detroit City Council member

Maryann Mahaffey – former Detroit City Council member

Helen Thomas, Yusef Lateef, Michael Alston (Wheel Chair Mike) and Tecumseh

Helen Thomas, Yusef Lateef, Michael Alston (Wheel Chair Mike) and Tecumseh

Now I see that a few more have gone up on a vintage 2-story boarded-up building that is home to a liquor store on the first floor. That particular building is on Trumbull Street at the I-94 exit/service drive in the city’s historic Woodbridge neighborhood. Ten portraits are on that building and they cover the boarded up windows facing Trumbull. All of the individual portraits are Detroit literary figures. They include Naomi Long Madgett, Bill Harris, Lolita Hernandez, Terry Blackhawk, Melba Joyce Boyd, Philip Levine, Mick Vranich, Dudley Randall, Robert Hayden, and Sixto Rodriguez.


Trumbull Street portraits

Trumbull Street portraits

The portraits are all the work of Nicole MacDonald, a Detroit based artist. They are part of an ongoing project called The Detroit Portrait Series. The current portraits found on Grand River and on Trumbull streets are truly some of the finest public art in Detroit, especially from a historic perspective. It will be interesting to see what comes next (and where) in this series of portraits.

Kudos to the artist Nicole MacDonald, nice work!



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Graffiti isn’t all one or two-color tags, quick hitting initials or large hard to read letters sprayed on the sides of buildings from fire extinguishers. There is much more to it than that. Scattered across the city of Detroit are some amazing graffiti murals. They have been created in multi-colored designs on large walls throughout many of the city’s neighborhoods and commercial districts.

Talented street artists from Detroit, Los Angeles, the Carolina’s, New York City, and other places use nothing more than spray paint from cans to create the giant, colorful murals. The remarkable works of art are full of detailed imagery and many of the pieces are monumental in scale. It isn’t unusual to see these beautiful works of art completely covering the sides of two-story buildings.

Cowboys E Market_0222

7th letter e mkt_0823

In some cases, the murals don’t last very long on a wall because they are painted over in a relatively short time. Depending on the site, I’ve seen a fresh piece quickly go up and within a few days, it has been painted over with a new piece of art by the same artist, or in some cases, another painter. Some of the murals are so fresh and new that I could smell the distinct odor of enamel paint in the air as I rode up to them on my bicycle.

Hygenic Dress League_0829

Sintex Indian _0852

Vincent Chin_0186

The subject matter of the works of art I’ve seen has a wide array of content. They include portraits, historical figures, monsters, birds, eyeballs, cartoon characters, and plenty of other interesting images. Although there are graffiti murals scattered around the city, there are a few hot spots where much of the wall art can be seen. They include the Lincoln Street Art Park, the Grand River Creative Corridor, a railroad wall along Newark Street and other places such as the historic Eastern Market and the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation building on Trumbull Street.

Gratiot Mural _9595

Monster Steve Bug_0505

Eyeball Mural _0236

Keep your eyes open, because you never know what you’ll see on a wall in Detroit.

Woman w bird hair_0122
Purple Ape_0479Patch Whiskey_9788
 Hamtramck Arabic Lady Painting_9989

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There is a building at West Warren Avenue at Grand River Avenue that at one time featured some of Detroit’s finest graffiti.  Painted on the walls of that building were large, multi-colored masterpieces put up by graffiti artists Sintex, Deco 23, the TST crew, and other well-known street painters using aerosol paint cans. I’ve seen the eye-catching, engaging art on three sides of the building for well over a year, and I always stop to study the complexity of the pieces when riding my bicycle through that part of town.

The building once featured various graffiti masterpieces

A few months ago, the building was covered with various graffiti masterpieces

I was riding past that building a few weeks ago and didn’t recognize it. All the brilliant wall art found on that outside gallery had been painted over! The art pieces weren’t vandalized by others spraying a quick black and white tag over them, nor were they covered by newer, 3-dimensional appearing graffiti masterpieces. Unfortunately, they were totally gone because the building had been painted a dark brown color from top to bottom.

The same building today

The same building today

Thinking about the intriguing graffiti that was once there and why it may have been painted over, I decided to investigate. So the other day I went by there to see what I could find out. Located right behind the building that once featured the stunning wall art is a business called Architectural Salvage Warehouse. It’s an interesting non-profit organization that sells salvaged artifacts, building materials, etc. from old homes slated to be torn down in Detroit and the surrounding communities. It happened to be open, so I stopped by and asked one of the staff members what happened to the graffiti art on the building in front.

The person I spoke with at the salvage warehouse speculated that the building owner is preparing it for a possible sale. He also thought the owner might be getting sick of looking at the graffiti that once covered his place, even though he allowed the artists to use the building as a pallet for their colorful work. Regardless, the building that was once adorned with some of Detroit’s best graffiti art is now painted dark brown.

Here are a few of the beautiful graffiti art pieces that are found under the brown paint on that building. Some I’ve posted in earlier blog entries.

Deco 23 on the Warren side of the building

Deco 23 art was on the Warren side of the building

I've yet to figure out the name of this engaging piece

I’ve yet to figure out the name or artist of this engaging piece

 This  piece is by Sintex

This piece is by Sintex, one of my favorites

I've yet yet to define this piece, any guesses?

Any guesses on what this spells?

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I saw some murals the other day while riding through a couple of Detroit’s neighborhoods. They weren’t large murals like those found in Southwest Detroit. They weren’t religious in nature; nor were they as intricate as some of the huge graffiti paintings I’ve seen on walls along railroad tracks or on the sides of manufacturing facilities. The murals I’m referring to can be found on abandoned homes throughout the Morningside Neighborhood and parts of the Creekside Community. Both neighborhoods are on Detroit’s far eastside.

The colorful murals are small and located on vacant, blighted homes that are scattered throughout the neighborhoods. They have been painted on plywood that now cover the openings of the homes where windows and doors once were. Their intention, I’m sure, is to diminish the harsh reality of the numerous deserted homes found in their respective communities.

The painting on this house is kind of a mirror image, like a folded piece of paper

Reminds me of a butterfly

Nice, clean color selections

A few of the blocks I rode appeared to have more unoccupied homes than those lived in. On those particular streets, it was uplifting to see one of the mural covered homes among the abandonment. The murals seemed to soften the bleakness of the abandoned homes, adding interest, freshness, and a little color to the forlorn structures. The feeling I got while looking at the many murals was that there are people in the neighborhood who care about their surroundings and quality of life in Detroit.

Nice job of creating windows on this stone beauty

Close up of the window paintings

Check out the dog, appears to be standing on two legs like the kids

Unfortunately, I don’t know who painted and installed the murals, but they should be commended for making a difference in the community. Not only are they helping the image of the neighborhood, the murals might also be an inspiration to some kid living in one of those tough neighborhoods, to pick up a paintbrush and explore his or her creativity.

I like the happy expressions on the kids faces

A stare down between the dog and bird

The cats are having fun in this house

Reminder – You can click on the photos to view them larger.

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