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!

Color has the Ability to Inspire

@sydney.hembree

I am currently working with Ford in a studio of mine this semester. I had posted about the overview of the class in January, and in that post, I mentioned I would update with progress reports if something interesting occurred. Well, I’m here today, sharing a snippet of my process and some good news!

My goal for the semester is to create a color palette to inspire Ford for the renovations that will occur over the next few years at their new Corktown, Detroit campus. One of the ideas that has permeated the conversations over the last few months, has been Ford’s desire to fully integrate within the existing community. More often than not, when a large company is creating a new campus, the plans are structured around a self-sufficient and free-standing area that is almost completely separate from its surroundings – whether that be residential or industrial.

Ford’s extensive and progressive goals are to create a campus – one of those buildings being the famous Michigan Central Station – that fit homogeneously within the Corktown landscape. One of the most inspiring things I’ve personally observed throughout this landscape, is the unique color palette. It is so unique, lively, and the colors permeate almost every inch of the community. My personal project and goal is to create a comprehensive Color Catalog throughout Corktown by compiling photographs from the area. All photos will be taken by myself – within the train station, and the neighboring streets. I’ve inserted a few from today’s shoot above and below. As you can see, the rusty oranges and warm tans, complemented by the minty greens and hazy blues, are already starting to pattern themselves out.

A color palette proposal will be created by color sampling from this catalog I’m compiling. My goal is to help give inspiration to Ford for upcoming projects so that the renovations directly assimilate colors from the community into the campus. Here is a piece of inspiration I found from a fellow student of mine. He directly sought out green in the Detroit area and created swatches that could then be used for the project’s final:

@vikas.sethi

My goal is slightly different – I want to see what comes out of the cataloged photos. Instead of directly seeking out a specific hue, my mission is to shoot as many photos of color in the area as possible, and see what trends form by themselves. Especially in the light of these new renovations, the last thing I want to do is force my own voice, perspective, or motive onto the catalog. The colors will speak for themselves.

As Ford tries to integrate their campus within Corktown, incorporating the existing neighborhood colors into new buildings will help establish a more seamless and culture-appropriate approach. I received great feedback for my proposal during our pitch meetings today, and I hope my project fulfills a gap I think is currently missing in this new age of the Corktown landscape. Color is such a driving force within cities and communities and I am extremely excited about the prospects. Will update as more surfaces!

Corktown, Detroit

all photos taken are my own 1/22/2019

I was recently chosen to participate in a studio class with Ford Motor Company. The brief for our course was to document, discuss, facilitate, and develop the relationship between the Corktown neighborhood and Ford over the next 3-4 year span as the automotive mogul renovates and redesigns the Michigan Central Train Station. It has been a daunting task, being assigned the responsibility of preserving the history of such an iconic piece of Michigan history. Our class is only 2 weeks into the program, and quite honestly, we’ve just been throwing ourselves at the learning aspect of it all.

Today, the students were given a tour of the ground level of the building. I’ve seen photos before. I’ve had the urge to sneak into the station while it was in it’s abandoned stages. There is this certain energy around the whole thing. But until you are actually standing in there, your whole perspective is blown out of the water. I only captured a few photos today, because 1) I was freezing my butt off and 2) I was overwhelmed.

I can’t exactly share my wealth of knowledge (because I don’t have it yet) about the Corktown train station. I’m staying optimistic about Ford’s intentions and plans for the community. I believe everyone is optimistic about this prospect. I am not a native Detroiter (I’ve been in the city for about 4 years now so I have some first-person perspective) so I cannot claim that I’m an expert. What I will claim, is that I am more than excited — and nervous — to talk to the people who have been here for their whole lives; the transition this area will see in the next few years will be unbelievable. I will do my best to update you on our progress as a class. As for now, enjoy the few photos. And tune back for more!

Detroit’s lack luster NAIAS 2019

Having visited the North American International Auto Show in Detroit every year since I was about 5 years old, I can say first-hand that this year was a disappoint. The past few years have been interesting in their own ways, but with the lack of the three major German automakers (Audi, BMW, and Mercedes) and an unbelievable amount of dead space throughout the event this week, the air was heavy and excitement low.

A few quick thoughts are bulleted here. I will be writing more in depth for a trend report soon.

— In an age of newfound mobility and EV efforts, the amount of SUV and truck proposals were shocking; Kia and Ford were especially keen on their new large vehicles

— Unique colors (especially on exterior paint) ranged from antiqued gold to muted teal, hot orange, and pale lavender blue. Was impressed by the variation across most brands

— A trend I’m looking forward to keeping up on is the sensor dedication you see in the front and rear of vehicles particularly. Clever initiatives by brands like Hyundai saw sensors that were more aesthetically integrated than before

— Exhibit design has exploded in the past few years, and along with it the cost for a company to showcase vehicles at events like these. There have been rumors of hosting next year’s new time-slotted June show outside in the heart of the city. I am curious about how brands will demonstrate ideas in a new space, especially with the vast expanse of the streets at their fingertips

— Aggressive textures (featured prominently on off-road specific vehicles) were a major swing forward for CMF across many brands. From pick-up beds, to side steps, and more, it’s exciting to see the attention to detail and commitment

As another year has unfolded, though disappointing overall, Detroit has continued to be a main stage for innovation and automotive technology. I look forward to the new 2020 show in June of next year.