Leaving a Mark, a Message

The abandoned, ramshackle houses and businesses in Detroit can be sad reminders of the city’s drastic population loss over the past half century.

But with a little bit of paint and sweat, the blocks of ruin can be transformed into a portrait of love and hope.

From the vibrant extravagance of graffiti art to simple scrawls with powerful messages, Detroit is tattooed with public art.

“Public art says a lot about a community,” Detroit artist Jennifer Quigley told me before painting a mural for up-and-coming Woodbridge. “In Detroit, we have a lot of creative minds coming together with the goal of making the city a better place to live. You can see the change.”

While Quigley and other established artists paint vibrant murals in higher-traffic areas, residents in poorer neighborhoods often contribute with smaller, poignant messages scrawled on fences, burned-out
businesses and abandoned houses.

Some are legal; most are not.

Some are ugly smears of hatred; others inspire.

From the behemoth Packard Plant, where graffiti covers virtually every square inch of industrial space, to the wooden panel of an abandoned house, public art is an undeniable part of Detroit.

Scroll through the slideshow for some of my favorite scrawls.

What are your favorite paintings/murals/scrawls in Detroit?

What to share a photo of public art in the city? Click here.

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.