A section of Grand River Ave. seeks revival with help of an old urban nemesis: Graffiti
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Among the inspirations for the graffiti murals that adorn buildings along a half-mile stretch of Grand River Avenue in Detroit: the Belle Tire mascot.
Photo: RYAN KELLY
The first phase of a project to make a half-mile stretch along Grand River Avenue in Detroit more attractive to investors is expected to be finished within a week.
The effort, called the Grand River Creative Corridor, encompasses graffiti murals on 15 buildings and two temporary outdoor art galleries. Also under way is a cleanup of overgrown vegetation, trash and graffiti vandalism.
The artwork and cleaning is part of an effort to make the stretch along Grand River between Rosa Parks Boulevard and Warren Avenue more attractive to small businesses as well as investors, said Derek Weaver, organizer of the project and vice president of operations and development at Provident Real Estate & Asset Management, an Ann Arbor-based property management firm.
Provident has an interest in the 4731 Building, an art and business incubator on Grand River. Weaver is the managing director of the building.
"Once we're able to successfully turn this area into an attractive area for tourists, … it presents a lot of opportunities," he said.
When Weaver took over management of the 4731 Building in October 2010, it was 30 percent occupied. Today, it is almost 100 percent occupied.
The murals and other outdoor art are intended to improve the aesthetics of the area, which is only a few blocks from the MotorCity Casino and the city's Woodbridge neighborhood.
The outdoor art galleries will feature 13 works from traditional artists following a Diego Rivera "Detroit Industry" murals theme. All the works were contributed without commission.
Rivera "illustrated what was happening at that time. … This one is, 'Where are we going now?' " said organizer and contributor Sydney James, a fine artist who owns the clothing line G.R.ind. Apparel and founded the art installation Gallery at Conant Gardens near Pershing High School.
In addition to the outdoor art exhibits, 15 buildings along Grand River are expected to have 20-30 murals painted on their walls.
Participating Detroit artists include Sintex, James, Malt BrownBagDetroitand Kobie Solomon, who is known for his "Chimera Project" mural spanning an exterior wall of the Russell Industrial Center in Detroit.
Sintex, a graduate of the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, has done work for Vitamin Water and recently did a commissioned piece of the Incredible Hulk for St. Andrews Hall in downtown Detroit. He is recognized in the graffiti art world for incorporating characters into his work that the general public can relate to, as opposed to just painting words.
Malt BrownBagDetroit has worked with Ford Motor Co., Coca-Cola Co. and Dan Gilbert's Fathead LLC.
"It's like a little tornado," said the self-taught BrownBagDetroit, who helped paint a mural that includes green, blue and red birdlike creatures. "We come in, paint and we're done."
Before his work on Grand River, he painted sections of the Dequindre Cut.
A few of the other works to stand out on Grand River include the Michelin tire man, the Belle Tire mascot and an American Indian-themed mural.
A local junkyard is allowing the artists to scrawl over the black aluminum sidingsurrounding the yard. A liquor store, Basil's Party Store, is allowing murals on its property, something the owner hopes will deter graffiti vandalism.
"Once we get these murals on there, it will prevent that from happening," Weaver said. "The No. 1 rule in graffiti is that you never go over someone's art piece unless you can do it better."
But the artists still have to deal sometimes with graffiti sprayed over their works, he added.
Local companies or organizations contributing to the effort with supplies or funding include Midtown Detroit Inc.; Lincoln Park-based Rental Clean USA; Slows Bar BQ, Detroit Hardware Co. and American Integrated Supply, all in Detroit; Royal Oak-based 323 East Gallery; Commerce Township-based Financial Partners LLC; and Atlanta -based Home DepotInc.
The project is being funded mostly through donations, which can be directed to the Riverview-based nonprofit Passes.