Who Owns a Mural?

Arguably one of Detroit’s most famous works of art, The Illuminated Mural (the “dripping rainbow wall” is the street-known name) has been contested in lawsuits for years now. Katherine Craig is the creator and originally painted this piece back in 2009. The wall has been the backdrop to thousands of photos, including the ones of my friends and I above, taken back when I had started college in 2014.

It has brought joy to the city since its creation, and when the building’s owner started to talk about proposed renovations a few years ago, the difficulties ensued (no pun intended). See, the remodels for the apartments were scheduled to punch holes through the mural for new windows along the side of the building. Craig pushed back, saying that it violated the art she had made. Several campaigns around the city were held to show support – #SavetheRainbow being one of the most influential.

Now, legally there were a lot of discussions surrounding all of this. You can read an older article from Detroit Free Press here. It outlines what was current a couple of years ago during the melee. The reason I am talking about it today, is because driving past it earlier this week, I noticed brand new windows had just been installed. Don’t panic – the windows now occupy the strip of brick on the left side of the facade that doesn’t have any paint. You can see the space in the photo below:

@playground.detroit

My mom actually knows Craig’s mother believe it or not. So this wall has been something we’ve personally talked about for years now. I haven’t heard much in the local press lately, so I’ve been out of the loop on the developments. I was definitely happy to see that some sort of compromise has been made. After driving past a few days ago, I knew I had to research the updates. I haven’t been able to find anything published recently regarding the situation.

I do understand the legality of the building owner having the right to the wall, but if windows really had been scattered throughout it, I know how distraught the community would be. Art – murals especially – is a major component of Detroit’s culture and people. More often than not, you hear the arts are the first to be cut from struggling schools. Art and design are extremely important in the establishment of not only ideas, but society in general. It seems like not many artists win these days, so I wanted to share a small victory I encountered this week. If you’re in the area I highly recommend you take a trip to see it in person!

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