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In Detroit, A Refreshingly Permissive Street Art Renaissance

Curators’ corner

In Detroit, A Refreshingly Permissive Street Art Renaissance

Fallen from a bustling city with nearly 2 million residents in the 1950s to declaring bankruptcy in 2013, Detroit has fought hard to recreate its urban identity by appealing to young creatives looking for a fresh start.

Amongst the shiny new high-rises built to support the city’s new tagline, “America’s Great Comeback City,” are sweeping street murals painted onto factory buildings and inside parking garages. As Co-Founders of BrooklynStreetArt (BSA) Jaime Rojo and Steven Harrington report in a recent Huffington Post article, street art has become a celebrated invitation to help reinvigorate Motor City.

Despite the fact that public relations entities are now embracing uncommissioned murals, Rojo and Harrington, who share a publication that reports on the latest urban artwork worldwide, warn artists in Detroit to approach the freedom with caution.

“It is a fiery collision of intertwined ironies,” they write in Huffington Post. “The Street Art paradox in Detroit and elsewhere is that the work of vandals eventually becomes celebrated by greater society, but until then you should look over your shoulder.”

The writers allude to Mayor Mike Duggan’s “war on graffiti,” which aims to protect abandoned homes from vandalism. That said, they celebrate the bold and inspiring street art, noting that many of today’s famous artists, such as Swoon and the ever-elusive Banksy, began their careers traipsing the streets of cities with graffiti cans, illegally.

“As we speak with Callie Curry, the artist known as Swoon, she marvels aloud that her work is hanging very near Rivera Court, a collection of 27 frescoes by the socialist-themed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera — which are now officially national historic landmarks,” Rojo and Harrington write.

The street art experts can’t help but admire the inspiring artwork coloring Detroit, saying, “The streets are the gallery and a petri dish for experimentation and engaging with the public.”

Check out some of Rojo’s photos of Detroit street art below. And the next time you wander a city, share with us your favorite stumbled-upon street art on Instagram.

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Photos © Jaime Rojo

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