New murals light up Eastern Market

The 10-day mural painting festival will produce 50 artworks designed by local and international artists

Stephanie Steinberg
The Detroit News

Detroit artist Pat Perry was going to paint a marching band playing on old car parts and oil machinery a few months ago in Virginia, but he says festival organizers there thought the mural representing the end of the oil age was “too controversial.”

So he brought his idea and his efforts back to his hometown.

“It actually worked out in the end a lot better because it makes way more sense to have the symbology of this here in Detroit,” he says, studying his work in progress on the corner of Wilkins and New Orleans streets.

Now in its second year, the free Murals In The Market festival in Eastern Market has added more than 50 murals by local and international artists from as far as Paris, Singapore and Australia.

Friday was the last day visitors could watch the artists paint the murals live, but the works of art — ranging from a black-and-white lion with blue eyes by Atlanta artist Greg Mike to London artist Anthony Gross’ 1973 red El Camino perched vertically on top graffiti in the Dequindre Cut to a Shed 4 floor painting by Heidelberg Project creator Tyree Guyton — will be viewable year-round.

While the festival, funded by the Knight Foundation, lasts 10 days, Dan Carmody, president of the Eastern Market Corporation, says the “enthusiasm” lingers throughout the year.

“This year, people were posting on Twitter or Facebook pictures of murals nine months after they were painted,” he says. “We have a lot of walls in the market district with warehouses that are not transparent, and this is a way to add interest to sometimes what’s a black brick wall.”

Detroit-based 1xRUN, a fine art print publisher, curated 20 murals between 2012 and 2014 for the Eastern Market district. The company, which sponsors mural festivals worldwide, presented the inaugural Murals In The Market last year, adding 49 public artworks. By Saturday, 1xRUN and its gallery, Inner State, will have produced nearly 100 murals dispersed throughout the district — from Mack and Gratiot avenues to Maple and St. Aubin streets.

“There’s not a density of murals that it becomes overwhelming with art,” says Murals In the Market organizer Jesse Cory, co-founder of 1xRUN. “There’s still a little relief where there’s businesses that don’t have murals, or there’s architecture that’s preserved just for the beauty of the brick work.”

He adds that the goal of the festival is to encourage people who haven’t visited the 125-year-old Eastern Market and seen the revamped sheds or new restaurants and shops in the area.

“It’s more alive today than it has been in 100 years,” Cory says, “and this is really beautiful because Eastern Market is such a gem for our community, and public art is just expanding the district and the footprint.”

Tens of thousands of people visit Eastern Market each year, says Carmody, but Murals In The Market attracts more than the traditional vegetable, fruit or flower buyer.

“(Last year) we experienced a surge of visitors to the market who were exploring places off the beaten path that a lot of people didn’t explore previously,” he says.

About 100 people work behind the scenes to organize the festival that Cory says leaves lasting “gifts to the community.”

“What is really awesome is when you see people come out and take their wedding photos, their senior pictures, group shots. They park their cars and their motorcycles for a moment,” he says. “That happens all the time.”

For Perry, who lives a half mile from his mural, the festival allows him to use his talents to uplift the “quality of life” for his neighbors.

“I think when the kids get out of that school right there and walk by this everyday,” he says, looking at the freshly painted brick wall, “somehow they feel like their life has more value than if they walk by just some abandoned building that someone forgot.”

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Twitter: @Steph_Steinberg

Murals in the Market

On Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., the community is invited to view the completed murals. It’s also the last day to see three pop-up exhibits at the 1xRUN Warehouse at 1558 Winder.

View a map of where to find the murals at