Found in alleys, on walls, trains, trucks and billboards, street art exposes a place’s raw conscience on a public canvas. These works often reach more people, and certainly a more diverse audience, than art trapped in galleries or museums. Murals in the Market embraces this notion. The week-long event held in Detroit’s Eastern Market invites local and global artists to beautify the buildings that comprise this historic neighborhood. An area known for its food and flower markets, kitschy diners, and dives, Eastern Market is rapidly becoming a creative outpost. But Murals in the Market is an important effort for other reasons, too.
As Detroit officials invest time and resources cracking down on graffiti artists—while many of the city’s other inhabitants struggle in the shadows—Murals in the Market sends a different message about Detroit’s appetite for graffiti. It celebrates the value of street art, attracting tourists and residents to view the outdoor displays, while offering artists a legitimate space to present their work. Some pieces, created by people who at one time or another were indeed running from police for painting their art on public walls, are potent protests against racial injustice and government corruption.
“As an artist, in the past couple years it’s like I have finally been able to come out,” Tavar Zawacki told me. The Berlin resident is among the cadre of street artists who once painted in the still of the night and went only by a pseudonym. Today, like many artists with a street genesis, his works now hang in galleries and are part of mural festivals like this one.
Talking with paint splattered artists like Zawacki and curious passersby, I inhaled a sense of pride for my former city. This was not the withering metropolis I remember from 10 years ago. It was a glimpse into Detroit’s potential future, which in some ways rests on the shoulders of these folks: the indefatigable creative class.
My favorite of this year’s brilliant works by Bmike Odums and Uncle Rick.
ISO 200, 26mm, f11, 1/100)
Artist Tavar Zawacki, a.k.a. “Above,” of Berlin. (ISO 360, 18mm, f10, 1/60)
An older piece that welcomes shoppers to the weekend market.
(Silhouette) Case Maclaim of Frankfurt details a brilliant perspective piece. (ISO 100, 55mm, f5.6, 1/500)
Maclaim’s work from a distance. (ISO 100, 35mm, f5, 1/500)
Dilla dawg. enough said. (ISO 125, 18mm, f5.6, 1/200)
(ISO 200, 18mm, f10, 1/80)
(Wide depth) The artist known as Meggs of Australia. He moved to Detroit three years ago. “I was living in L.A. before I moved here,” he told me. “Detroit just feels more authentic.” (ISO 100, 18mm, f8, 1/80)
(ISO 100, 48mm, f5.6, 1/200)
(ISO 200, 18mm, f10, 1/80)
Local artist Shaina Kasztelan donning green hair to match her mural. (ISO 200, 55mm, f5.6, 1/640)
(ISO: 200, 18mm, f11, 1/100)
(Leading lines—ISO 110, 18mm, f11, 1/125)
(ISO 250, 18mm, f5, 1/1600)
(ISO 100, 18mm, f13, 1/15)
(ISO 100, 28mm, f4.5, 1/500)
(ISO 110, 20mm, f3.8, 1/500)
Kasztelan and her creative counterpart Heidi Barlow. (ISO 250, 18mm, f5, 1/1600)
(Shallow depth—ISO 160, 22mm, f3.8, 1/500)
(Shallow depth—ISO 125, 22mm, f5.6, 1/250)
Detroit’s Jonny Alexander. (ISO 200, 55mm, f5.6, 1/200)
Seattle artist Mary Iverson delivers the mountains to the city. (ISO 200, 18mm, f11, 1/125)
(ISO 200, 18mm, f5, 1/100)
(More leading lines—ISO 400, 18mm, f16, 1/125)
(ISO 125, 22mm, f5.6, 1/320)
(Blurred action—ISO 100, 24mm, f11, 1/50)
Soaking in Alexander’s work from afar. (ISO 200, 18mm, f10, 1/60)
(Rule of thirds) “I haven’t come down here to paint before,” this woman told me. “But now I plan to return. It’s so colorful.” She was surprised to learn that artists just around the block were also hard at work. (ISO 100, 26mm, f5, 1/160)
(ISO 100, 18mm, f4.5, 1/250)
(ISO 320, 18mm, f16, 1/200)
(ISO 100, 22mm, f5, 1/320)
(ISO 125, 18mm, f5.6, 1/400)
(ISO 100, 55mm, f5.6, 1/320)
(ISO 100, 18mm, f22, 1/15)
(Extreme lighting—ISO 640, 18mm, f22, 1/80)
(Wide depth) I had to capture this color coordinated woman and the wall she matches. (ISO: 280, 32mm, f4.8, 1/125)
(Panned action—ISO 400, 18mm, f22, 1/40)
(ISO 100, 20mm, f5, 1/400)
(Stopped action—ISO 100, 18mm, f5, 1/2000) The shops at Eastern Market.