Mural festival brings new perspective to Eastern Market

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer

Eastern Market, already home to some of Detroit’s most-exuberant mural art, is about to get even more dazzling.

Starting Friday, 45 local and international artists will descend on the sprawling farmers’ market with paint brushes and spray cans in hand to create 40-odd new murals.

The Murals in the Market festival will last nine days, a creative marathon the public is invited to wonder at, watch and critique. (Constructive criticism only, please.)

“It’s really crazy,” says festival director Roula David with a laugh. “It’s happening. No chance to back out now!”

Sponsoring the festival are the Eastern Market Corp., Detroit’s Inner State Gallery and fine-art print publisher 1xRUN. The latter two are run by David and her husband, Jesse Cory.

“Eastern Market actually came to us,” David says, “looking for artists to do facade improvements.” In response, she and Cory proposed the mural-fest to Dan Carmody, president of the market corporation.

“He said he’d love a public-art solution,” David says. “We adore Dan.”

Some artists with obligations later in the month got a head start last weekend, including Detroiter Jesse Kassel. He’s at work on a vast cityscape on Riopelle between Adelaide and Winder with a jagged orange lightning bolt running through it.

Kassel, who had a painting in the recent “fall-out” show at Detroit’s Whitdel Arts gallery, says the mural might touch on the prevalence of what he terms “artificial food” in the American diet — or it might not.

“I’m not entirely sure,” says the College for Creative Studies grad. “It’s still evolving.”

A couple blocks away at Alfred and Orleans, Detroiter Ryan Doyle is hustling to get his mural done so he can turn to an ArtPrize project he’s got to slap in shape by the time that festival opens Wednesday.

Doyle, a self-described “kinetic sculptor” and welder best known for building a fire-breathing dragon that’s the star at Detroit’s annual Nain Rouge parades, is crafting a mural at Orleans and Adelaide with the chipper legend, “Nothing Stops Detroit.”

It’s a tongue-in-cheek reference in this case, not a public relations slogan.

“When I moved here from New York City,” Doyle says, “I was struck by how no one stops at ‘Stop’ signs in the city.”

The irony in holding a mural festival in the town that’s currently prosecuting a number of graffiti artists, including the guy behind the Obama “Hope” poster, Shepard Fairey, hasn’t escaped Doyle’s attention.

There are, of course, big differences.

David and Cory had Carmody’s blessing for Murals in the Market, and got permission from owners of all walls that will be painted. (Amusingly, David discovered one property owner hails from the same Jordanian village she grew up in.)

By contrast, Fairey — who did the spectacular mural on the back of the Compuware building — is charged with putting up other murals without permission.

Doyle understands the city’s point of view, but thinks it’s shortsighted. If you’re really trying to cut down on ugly graffiti, he suggests, then you should encourage legitimate street art.

“The thing about art is this — if you make something weird and cool, people respect it,” he says. But empty walls, he says invite precisely the sort of tagging that depresses property values.

‘Murals in the Market’

Friday - Sept. 26

Eastern Market, Detroit

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