It started as a simple set of graffiti murals commissioned by a gallery operator for the building he manages in the Woodbridge area of Detroit, but it didn't stop there. After Derek Weaver, managing director of the 4731 Gallery and Studios, contracted the Detroit area graffiti artist Sintex this March to create three murals for his building, the two decided to spread the results of their creative symbiosis throughout the neighborhood.
Sintex and Weaver, who has a background in real estate, began planning a series of murals -- an artistic effort to create neighborhood revitalization. The project covers a stretch of Grand River between Rosa Parks Boulevard and Warren Avenue. It will include murals and makeovers for 15 buildings along a stretch of Grand River Avenue between Rosa Parks Boulevard and Warren Avenue, as well as a general cleanup of trash, vandalism and overgrown vegetation. The project will feature about 20 to 30 local artists and will include volunteers from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit, as well as from other local organizations and neighborhood residents.
(Scroll down for photos)
Weaver hopes the makeover will help transform the area into a creative hub and tourist attraction.
"This is a great opportunity for all these Detroit artists to get exposure and showcase their talents and to help the shop owners as well," he told The Huffington Post. "It's really interesting to bring all these people together -- artists, tourists, students ... and others."
Sintex, a successful graffiti muralist (whose work graces the Black History 101 Mobile Museum and numerous other sites around the city), helped bring many of the artists who have volunteered for the effort on board.
Some of the participating artists include Kosek, Kobie Solomon (responsible for the Russell Industrial Center's "Chimera" mural), Christopher Batten, Iges, Ramen, Malt BrownBagDetroit, Clifton Perry, Tead, Sham, Lamar Landers, Patrick Mills, Halima Cassells, Fel, Alonzo Edwards, and Sydney G. James. All the artists are Detroit-based and many are graduates of the College for Creative Studies.
The mural project has already outgrown some walls, as organizers plan an outdoor art installation featuring nine works painted on plywood canvasses. The exhibit will be located near a bus stop and benches will be placed at the site so that people waiting to catch a ride can enjoy the works.
The project's organizers have made a special effort to get local business and property owners involved -- contacting them over the last few months to learn more about the issues they face.
"One thing they lack is the ability [to draw in] drive-by traffic," said Weaver. "The properties are continually vandalized by graffiti, and people constantly have to hire laborers to cover up graffiti and vandalism."
The artists plan address this need by painting site-specific murals -- such as a cartoon bolt for a nut and bolt manufacturer or a potato chip character for a neighborhood liquor store -- that will entice those driving down Grand River Ave.
It's starting to happen. Weaver says he already is getting calls from people who want to commission work from some of the volunteer artists.
The project is helped by funding from Midtown Detroit, Inc. (through the Colin Hubbell Fund) and Financial Partners, LLC of Commerce Township, as well as from Weaver himself. Rental Clean USA, which handles maintenance for the 4731 gallery, has organized a team of mowers and weed-whippers to help out with the effort. The Detroit Hardware Company is supplying exterior paint at wholesale prices and the 323 East Gallery of Royal Oak is providing artist's paint at a substantial discount.
The murals are expected to last around five to 10 years. The revitalization effort will conclude on July 31. For more information see the 4731's facebook page.