Did you know that Detroit, MI has one of the most vibrant street art scenes in the world? If you are not from Detroit, you have likely seen headlines and news clips about the sad state of affairs in this city. I am not going to sugarcoat things; Detroit is struggling. However, it is also home to some of the most resilient, loyal, and creative people anywhere. Detroit has a long way to go, however it is undoubtedly on its way up. The various street art around the city is just one piece of evidence of this. By no means is this a complete list of all the street art you may find in Detroit, however it covers some of my favorites.
A brief history
Before we can fully appreciate the significance of street art in Detroit, we need to understand what led to the city’s current challenges. By the end of the 19th century, Detroit was an industrial and manufacturing city. The population had grown steadily for decades, then exploded exponentially following the invention of the automobile. By 1950, Detroit’s population was at its height of 1.8 million residents with a booming economy.
Due to reliance on and loyalty to American-made cars, the infrastructure and design of Detroit was different from other major cities at the time. The city itself was sprawling, with most auto factory workers owning their own single-family homes (as opposed to living in the city center in high-rise buildings). Furthermore, auto industry executives, attorneys, and other wealthy, white collar workers lived outside the city limits in surrounding suburbs.
Then things began to change around the mid 20th century. The “Big 3”, Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors began moving their plants away from Detroit and out of the country. In the midst of this outsourcing, in 1967 Detroit saw riots that left many businesses destroyed and resulted in remaining businesses leaving for the safer suburbs. Then continued a cycle of poverty, crime, political corruption, and urban decay that resulted in the city of Detroit filing bankruptcy in 2013.
The time’s they are a-changing
Following the bankruptcy, about one third of Detroit’s debt was eliminated, which afforded more revenue to be spent in the city. Businesses began moving into Detroit, including Nike, Quicken Loans, and Shinola. This is has created more jobs, more revenue, and more residents now flooding into, and not out of the city.
Detroit still has a lot of work to do. There are still abandoned homes, a struggling educational system, and a significant homeless population. The most wealthy of Detroit residents have been the first to feel the positive effects of the economic upswing, as it typically goes, however the trends are going in the right direction
The significance of street art
Art is important to the artist because it serves as a vehicle of self-expression. Art is important to the beholder because it can improve one’s ability to empathize, feel, and think. Fine art is admired in curated museums around the world, whereas street art has a different feel altogether. Street art is by nature, public art. Anyone may look upon street art and appreciate its beauty, empathizing with the artist’s point of view, feeling a new emotion, and thinking with a new perspective. I think this openly exposed characteristic of street art is especially important in Detroit. People of all ages, races, and income levels may enjoy the view. And unlike the protected Mona Lisa, street art is open to the elements. The image will get weathered and eroded by the weather, not unlike the people of Detroit, who have been made even more beautiful and valuable by their hardships.
Lincoln Street Art Park
The Lincoln Street Art Park is an open lot where artists can display artwork and art installations. The artistic vibe has also stretched beyond the lot to the overpass nextdoor. Just be careful to wear covered shoes, since there is still litter and broken glass on the ground here. A perfect representation of Detroit.
Eastern Market is home to dozens of gorgeous murals. The subject matter varies from cartoony characters, to a big red shark, to florals, and more. As soon as I think I have seen every mural at Eastern Market, I discover a new piece of street art around another corner.
The Illuminated Mural
The Illuminated Mural is possible the most beautiful piece of street art in the city of Detroit. I ventured to this area of the city specifically to see this mural for myself. I had seen countless wedding photos taken at this mural, but wanted to photograph it personally. Unfortunately, the mural was cut off by a large fence, so I was unable to capture the full scale. When I arrived, however, there was a woman on a ladder doing some touch-up work. I stopped to chat, and learned that the woman was none other than Katie Craig, aka Exactly Hi-Tops. The artist of this beautiful piece of work.
Leah Little has a full time job as a social worker, and has managed to travel the world while wearing beautiful clothes by knowing how to score deals in travel and fashion. Learn more about her journey here. Join the Leah Little Travel and Fashion tribe by entering your email to subscribe to be the first to learn new ways to enjoy the best in travel and fashion for less. Say hi and send her a message! Contact