Paintings, street art change the look along Grand River Avenue in Detroit

Posted on July 25, 2012

Grand River Avenue business owners are opening their arms to local artists trying to make a difference in their community, both economically and artistically.

“I always have to cover my building of the gang-related graffiti,” said Jeff DeHetre, owner of American Integrated Supply at 4250 Grand River. “It costs hundreds of dollars per year. A couple of people said they have been riding around this area for years and didn’t realize that these businesses were open.”

More than a dozen local artists came together to start the revitalization of Grand River by using paintings and street art as a part of a 2 1/2-week volunteer cleanup of the neighborhood.

The project — the Grand River Creative Corridor — includes murals on 15 buildings and an outdoor photo gallery by the Grand River and Warren bus stop. The project ends July 31.

“Not only are we going to be doing this, we will also cut down overgrown grass and weeds and pick up trash in the neighborhood,” said Derek Weaver, managing director of 4731 Arts Incubator Gallery, who also is a real estate executive.

When national news media visit Detroit, the area of Grand River between Rosa Parks Boulevard and Warren Avenue is portrayed as unsafe and blighted, said Weaver, 25, of Harper Woods.

“We’re trying to revamp and re-image Grand River into a creative corridor where people can come and recognize the creativeness of the people in Detroit,” Weaver said.

The project started when Weaver saw a local artist painting a mural on a building and figured such artwork could bring inspiration and business to the community.

Weaver and the artist, who goes by the name Sintex, teamed up and got other artists to help the project. Word spread, and soon others from the community joined, too, Weaver said.

The “323 East Gallery, Home Depot, a grant and a couple other businesses are helping by giving us discounts on paint,” said Sintex, 30, of Detroit. “This project will benefit the community in many different ways. Abandoned and burnt-down buildings are an eyesore for people, but we want them to notice that these store owners are still here.”

DeHetre said a few customers told him not to allow the artist to paint on his building. But “it’s better than gang-related graffiti,” he said.

“Whenever you’re working on a project dealing with anything, there are a few people who will oppose it, and don’t think any good will come out of it,” Weaver said. “The reason for the project is change.”

By: Marielle Kouassi, Detroit Free Press