New mural pops up honoring Queen of Soul

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer

Correction: An earlier version of this story should have stated graffiti artist Sintex has shown his work in the Wynwood neighborhood in Miami.

The first time Claire Nowak-Boyd noticed the mural honoring Aretha Franklin was when she stepped out of her house Sunday and spotted it on a wall a block away. 

"I saw it yesterday afternoon when I came out for the first time," she said. "It's awesome."

Visiting from Atlanta, Thelicia Smith and her daughter Skylar Smith made a point of visiting the new Queen of Soul mural.

Nowak-Boyd added that she found it entirely appropriate that the artist Sintex located the new tribute to the Queen of Soul at Linwood and Euclid, just a block from New Bethel Baptist Church where Franklin's father was pastor. 

The mural, about 15 feet high, is rendered in shades of black and gray, and based on a black-and-white studio shot from the young Franklin's days at Columbia Records. 

The artist's text reads, "Rest in Respect, Queen." 

Detroiter Michelle Harris was part of the small, bi-racial crowd that gathered to snap pictures Monday afternoon.

"Seeing people pay homage to her is great," Harris said. "Aretha touched everyone. And whoever did the painting," she added, "did a beautiful job." 


Sintex, a well-known Detroit graffiti artist, was in Battle Creek for that city's Color the Creek street-art festival when Franklin died. He headed straight home with the intention of doing something to honor her.

"On Saturday it rained," the 36-year-old said, "so on Sunday I woke up and just went out there and did it. I put in about eight hours. Today I went back and added just a couple touch-ups."

Whether you realize it or not, you may well have seen work by the artist, who's black and Native American, around town.

"I've got a Native American boy with his fist up in the Eastern Market district," he said, "and I had a Joe Louis piece on Gratiot, but that building got torn down."

Sintex's black-and-white portrait of an Inuit boy graced the old Roosevelt Hotel by the train station until the plywood it was painted on got ripped off several years ago. 

He's has also shown nationally — at Denver's Crush Walls street-art festival, as well as in the mural-filled neighborhood of Wynwood, Miami.

Thelicia Smith and her family from Atlanta saw the mural on Facebook, and the one-time Detroiters hurried right on over.

Smith shook her head. "I just love it."

Her son, Justin Smith, added, "I like how the artist captured her looking up to the sky. It's just beautiful." 

Anthony and Theresa Nail of Sterling Heights also were tipped off by social media, and raced into the city, stopping to pick up Anthony's mother, Alvena Nail. 

The older woman said she thought the artist did "a wonderful job," adding, "Aretha was well loved. And she never gave up Detroit as her home. She was never ashamed." 

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