Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.
DETROIT — Heading east on Grand Boulevard from the Woodward corridor that bisects the city of Detroit, you can’t miss a 100-foot portrait of artist and activist Halima Cassells on the side of a building, acting as a sort of sentry to the entrance of the North End neighborhood. The mural is a visual send-up of Vermeer’s “Girl with the Pearl Earring,” done Motor City-style with an old English script “D”-for-Detroit earring in place of the eponymous original, and a shirt bearing patches with the names of some of the places along the North End’s Oakland Avenue strip that once made it Detroit’s premier entertainment district. Places like Apex Bar and Phelps Lounge hosted talents like James Brown, Etta James, George Clinton, and the Parliament — as well as featuring the Motown groups that hailed from the North End, before going on to international fame, including Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, the Four Tops, and Aretha Franklin.
The muralist, Sydney James, is also a hometown hero and her work can be found on walls across the city — from private female-led businesses like Live Cycle Delight, to major thoroughfares like the Eastern Market — lending visibility to the Black women who do so much in the city of Detroit. Now, James is one of three founders — along with Max Sansing and Thomas “Detour” Evans — and numerous organizers for BLKOUT Walls Detroit, a Black-led, open-air mural festival in its inaugural year, focused on bringing “museum-quality art” straight to the neighborhood.
“I was a drop-in artist at Crush Walls festival in 2019,” said James, who took time to speak with Hyperallergic in the midst of painting one of three walls for festival, which runs from July 24 and culminates in a come-one-come-all block party on July 31. “Max Sansing was there, too. And often in these spaces [Black muralists] are always happy to see each other, because whether it’s Murals in the Market or Pow! Wow!, we will be one of very few Black people in this sea of whiteness.”
BLKOUT Walls looks to flip that script, with all-Black leadership and majority Black artists from the 19 participating muralists, including a number of Detroit artists who have already made their mark on the city: Tylonn J. Sawyer, Ghostbeard, and 2021 KAID Fellow Backpak Durden. The festival also features some out-of-town talents, like Birdcap, sentrock, and Rahmaan Statik.
“I always wanted BLKOUT to come here first,” said James. “We can do that in Detroit, because we have the space, we have the opportunity, and we definitely have the community to support such a thing. In all these other arenas, they rarely break 10% Black artists, and all Black men.”
BLKOUT Walls is ongoing this week, with live painting events, artist talks, walking tours of the murals that span stretches of Oakland Avenue, Grand Boulevard, and adjacent side streets, and a culminating block party on Saturday. The murals will stand beyond the confines of the festival, and hopefully serve as seeds for even more artistic growth and fair representation on the streets of Detroit, and far, far beyond.
BLKOUT Walls events continue in Detroit through Saturday, July 31.
An SFMOMA exhibition raises questions about what it means when museum board members have ties to politicians who support border wall policies.
The exhibition at the Jewish Museum delves into “degenerate” art and art made under duress as part of a thought-provoking yet diffuse exhibition.
In Philadelphia, a series of solo shows delves into the interdisciplinary practices of graduates whose work explores identity, familial bonds, political constructs, and nature’s fragility.
Despite his work’s apparent abstraction, Sheroanawe Hakihiiwe insists that “I don’t invent anything, everything I do is my jungle and what is there.”
David Uzochukwu, Kennedi Carter, and Kiki Xue are among the 35 artists whose work will be displayed online and at the festival in Milan, Italy.
On November 14, join Columbia University School of the Arts for virtual information sessions with the program chair, faculty, and staff.
No Vacancy, curated by Jody Graf, will be on view from October 26 through November 8 at the school’s Kellen Gallery in New York City.
To do so before they have returned the Maqdala treasures and the Benin Bronzes and the Easter Island statues and the Maori heads, before a coherent set of precepts for decolonization has been articulated, would affirm the wrong principle.
“Everybody in Mesopotamia, as far as I understand it, believed in ghosts,” said Irving Finkel, a curator of the British Museum’s Middle Eastern department.