Hamtramck art installation depicts diversity, frontline workers amid pandemic

Ariana Taylor
The Detroit News

Hamtramck — A Detroit artist and a progressive organization have partnered on a COVID-19-themed installation unveiled Sunday that spans 17 windows of a Hamtramck building.

The painted panels, titled "Culture and Quarantine," have three themes, said artist Nicole Macdonald.

"There's reflection during the pandemic, cultures of Hamtramck ... and bridging the cultures in Hamtramck, and then there's honoring essential workers," Macdonald said.

Macdonald created the work on a building that formerly housed Shoppers World at Jos. Campau and Yemans with the support of OneHamtramck LLC, an organization dedicated to bringing communities together in Hamtramck.

"This mural is for all of us, to represent this time in history, which is very unique," said Bill Meyer, executive director of One Hamtramck.

An art installation titled "Culture and Quarantine," by Nicole Macdonald can be seen from the windows of the former Shoppers World on Joseph Campau in Hamtramck, August 30, 2020.

Macdonald said "Culture and Quarantine"  "was a bit of a challenge. I painted all of the paintings indoors with watercolor and colored pencils and then they were scanned and blown up and cropped."

The paintings will be displayed in the windows for "as long as they're allowed to", Meyer said. The art project took about six months to complete.

Artist Nicole Macdonald stands in front of her art installation, "Culture and Quarantine," in Hamtramck, August 30, 2020.

One of the panels depicts Jason Hargrove, a 50-year-old Detroit bus driver who died 11 days after posting a Facebook live video complaining about a woman who boarded his bus and coughed several times without covering her mouth. 

Other panels depicted Yemenis and Bangladeshis who are looking or being seen through windows, which Macdonald said represents the reflections people went through during the isolation of quarantine. 

The paintings feature text in English, Arabic, and Bangla, as a tribute to the diverse demographic in Hamtramck. 

"Culture and Quarantine" by Nicole Macdonald, can be seen from the windows of the former Shoppers World on Joseph Campau in Hamtramck, August 30, 2020.

The project cost about $3,000 and was funded mostly through donations. Meyer said while the organization raised about 90% of their goal, they're still short a few hundred dollars.

Those who want to donate can make payments through Paypal to covidart@onehamtramck.org.

OneHamtrmack has produced other art projects such as the Yemen mural at 8760 Joseph Campau, the huge Bangladesh Mural on 3105 Carpenter St. and the immigrant themed multimedia production, "The Home Suite." 

The group has also sponsored many forums, film showings and other cultural events that draw attention to issues of peace, justice and equality in Hamtramck.

"This COVID has affected so many people, predominately poor and working people," said Linda Rayburn, a committee member for OneHamtramck. "I think a lot of times we don't have representation of our struggles. ... We don't get that enough."