Detroit Murals in the Market

Recently some of the SprATX family had the opportunity to make the trek up to Detroit, MI for Murals in the Market (MITM) organized and produced by our incredible friends at 1xRUN. In it’s third year, with over 50 local and international artists, it’s safe to say that the week-long mural festival goes down as one of our favorite experiences to date. It was both culturally and creatively inspiring and invigorated each of us to continue to embody their unofficial motto, and a badass clothing line, “Detroit Hustles Harder” every day. 

Our experience of Detroit was that of total awe. Honestly, they had us at hello. The SprATX crew fell in love the moment we stepped off the plane. Detroit is a city of endless possibilities and it’s inhabitants have a passion for life. They’re beyond proud to live in the city and excited to talk to you about it. There’s a palpable feeling of soul. It’s alive and vibrant with history that can be felt within it’s wall and neighbors. Austin and Detroit are absolutely kindred cities and their people kindred souls. 

The mural festival was seven days of massive proportion: live mural painting, parties, guided tours, a personalized-version of Detroit’s Slow Roll monthly cycle ride, delicious meals, block parties, speaker panels, jazz concerts, limited edition print shows and art exhibitions. Each served as a means to further connect those visiting, both spectators and artists alike, to their local community. Detroit’s light grew in vibrancy with each day of the festival; we witnessed blank walls of all sizes come to life with art as well as people, once strangers, becoming fast friends. As visitors, we could feel the integrity and love that dwells within Eastern Market, one of the oldest and largest year-round markets in the United States. The Eastern Market dates back to the 1800’s and has since been strengthening community through local programming, local food and art markets, and developmental projects.

We discovered history behind every brick, heard eloquent stories from strangers, and were inspired by each mural being painted on the streets. The courage, strength, and love woven in and throughout every person working to make the city a more beautiful and better place was awe-inspiring.

History of Murals in the Market 

Co-owner of 1xRUN and co-director of MITM Jesse Cory explained, “In 2015 Dan Carmody, the President of Eastern Market Corporation, reached out to us – after seeing 1xRUN sponsoring POW! WOW! – and asked if we would be interested in collaborating on a public art initiative for Eastern Market. Our team was ready to give a mural festival in our hometown a go, so we all went to work and scheduled the event for September, when our yearly open studio and neighborhood-wide block party ‘Eastern Market After Dark‘ happens. [This year], we were able to build on the previous experiences, and [we] feel that we were able to elevate these activations with the sounds, sights, and taste of the D!”

Though his explanation made it feel as though the festival just flowed naturally and effortlessly into fruition, only one of those descriptors is true. A festival of this stature and quality doesn’t happen overnight; it takes an enormous amount of effort and passion. It’s a project that the 1xRUN team works on without pause and involves over 100 people to make it come to life. “Friends travel from across the world to help in any way possible, this along with the 1xRUN staff and dozens of locals that helped really showed the artists, patrons, media, and neighborhood that we all share a common goal to make art and bring it to the public in one of the most important hubs in the midwest,” said Cory.

“When you really get to the core of what makes Murals in the Market different than other festivals, [it] is the programming and dynamics of the neighborhood. We work hard to show all the people traveling into Detroit a bit about the city, the people, and the dynamics of our city.  Eastern Market is a really interesting place with so many wholesale businesses that service the dynamic and diverse population of metro-Detroit open daily and happy to see all of the public art going up. It’s uplifting. We also have a weekly farmers market and with tailgating and so many people from all over metro-Detroit visiting and utilizing the [Eastern] Market for events, shopping and connecting with others, I feel that the artists know that the public art they place in this neighborhood has a solid base of viewers year-round.” — Jesse Cory. 

Detroit Hustles Harder

Detroit is raw. Detroit is alive. Detroit hustles hard. And Detroit is brimming with opportunities for creatives. Flourishing with positive creative energy, the city had all local artists we spoke with affectionately and definitively claim Detroit as their “home”, regardless of whether they were born and raised in Detroit or moved there a few months ago. Similarly (and, at this point in our personal experience, not surprisingly) all those visiting the city gave rave review of their experiences during the festival. Murals in the Market has a similar layout to other mural festivals we’ve attended, but there’s something special about it, something extra. There’s the love for art and murals but the root of the festival is that it’s produced as a celebration, as Jesse Cory put it, for the public and for the artists.” We thought it best to let the words stand for themselves: 

“I live in Detroit because I like the rawness of it and the opportunity here.” — Anthony Lee

“Born and bred. Detroit is my home and home will always be there.” — Paul Johnson

“Detroit has an intoxicating sense of possibility that as an artist you can literally do whatever you want. You could pull off projects here that would be impossible anywhere else due to the space available. It’s a safe space for me to experiment.”  — Beau Stanton 

“Detroit has a certain freedom.” — MEGGS

“I came to Detroit pretty often for about the past seven years and it’s a place that I fell in love with. Since the first time I came here I’ve been looking for excuses to come back ever since.” — Beau Stanton

“Detroit is a beautiful and free place and a lot of people seem to act that way and respect it.” — WC Bevan

“My experience of Detroit has been a lot of love and very solid community and a lot of opportunities and wonderful seasons.” — Ouizi 

“What I love about Detroit are some of the same reasons that I love New Orleans. The people themselves have become their own cheerleaders and have bounced back. They reaffirm and proclaim why their cities are beautiful and that’s what I relate to when I walk the streets of Detroit.” — Bmike

“For this area of Detroit, it really helps to expand the walkable distance and pushes the footprint of the market. The market is really condensed in the center and when other areas start to get filled in, it’ll start to fill in the whole area as a walkable area that people can explore opposed to just being really tight knit in one place.” — Pietro 

“Being apart of the Detroit art community is something so special because you really have to grind & do what you need to do to get your shit done. That’s what I really like, anyone who does art here is working their fucking ass off. Thats supper important to me, I want to surround myself with people like that, like minded people.  I love living here!  I don’t think I could live anywhere else, this will always be home.” — Heidi Barlow 

“My favorite aspect of the city is the vastness of the city and the depth of all of the history; the architecture and the art community.” — Ouizi

“I think Detroit is a semi-lawless utopia that has longstanding soul & culture to it that people don’t give it credit for until they come & find out for themselves.  MinM has been a good strong project that has brought a lot of energy into the East Market.  The farmer’s market itself already had it’s own draw but this has changed into a kinda art hub that people can come and visit.” — Jonny Alexander

“I’ve been to Detroit several times now & this is my second MinM in Detroit and my second mural here, so I’ve been here many times. MinM is amazing, its a great crew-love type of mural fest.  There’s a lot of mural fests. out there that people don’t necessarily hang out or know each other or anything like that.  What MinM does is bring the artists together in a way that feels more like your working with family than your working with other artists.  I think what they do is a much more intimate experience than most.  I really like that aspect of it. We always have fun, we hang as a group.  Everyone goes and checks each other out. Detroit I love the spirit of the city & sort of that never die attitude.  No matter what its been thru it seems to outlive all of its skeptics. People are really responsive to what we do here & the environment.  You see some crazy shit, unexpected stuff that I wouldn’t even see in NY.  With a lot of characters here & the burnt out buildings & all the old character that comes with the architecture & the landscape, its been great.” — Kevin Lyons

“This is my second time at murals in the market the guys who put it together they are like my family. I think what they are doing for the city is amazing. It gives an opportunity for a positive narrative about our city. We get so much bad press. “ — Rick Williams

“Detroit, I just love the rawness, it’s what I love about Berlin. People don’t really give a fuck what we’re doing here, that you couldn’t get away with in bigger cities. I’m honored to be the one artist that they brought out internationally who wasn’t already in the States. (The festival) is really well organized and for it being just the third time they’ve really figured it out quite quick. Keeping everyone really informed.” — Tavar Zawacki 

Written by Zuzu Perkal & Molly Maroney

*All photos taken by SprATX

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