Big Art done right in Detroit


It’s obvious that Dan Gilbert is getting excellent advice as he invests in public space interventions that are defining the New Detroit in major ways.

His contributions to the downtown core demonstrate three important qualities which offer lessons for other cities:

1. They add to Detroit’s unique culture, character and identity (v. generic, placeless design)

2. They are upbeat and dignified (not glitzy and cheesy)

3. They reflect a spirit of stewardship (leveraging the city’s human assets and potential)

This striking new 18-story mural by Shepard Fairey is a fine example. Created as part of his work with Library Street Collective its enduring theme of peace and justice animate an otherwise boring view of ordinary architecture and a parking garage:

Big Art_Detroit_2015_6424_crop

When skillfully placed, there is huge potential for Big Art to enliven dull urban spaces. But in order to be an enduring asset, the art must have strong, defining qualities that will make it locally meaningful and internationally significant.

By contrast, this “me-too” artwork (only a few blocks away) is one of literally 100 similar murals by the artist and is located 700 miles from the nearest ocean:

Detroit 2015 whale mural_1

-Sharon VanderKaay

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