Taxpayer Cost Unknown for Detroit’s Commissioning of 200 ‘Blight to Beauty’ Murals

by Bruce Walker


Taxpayers’ potential cost is unknown for Detroit’s commissioning of 200 murals to be painted by local artists.

The commissions are part of Mayor Mike Duggan’s 2022 Blight to Beauty campaign and will be funded by the city’s Public Art Fund as well as potentially by the Ford and Kresge foundations.

Rochelle Riley told The Center Square the Detroit Office of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship doesn’t have the cost because the works and artists haven’t been commissioned yet. Riley is the director of that office.

The Motor City is trying to advance its ranking from fourth to first nationally in street murals.

“Municipal officials would better serve residents by sticking to the true business of government,” Michael LaFaive told The Center Square.

He’s senior director of the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a conservative-leaning nonprofit research and educational institute.

LaFaive says government officials’ concern is “safe streets, great schools and other highly valuable public goods. The art market can take care of itself.”

Riley said the additional 200 murals will be completed by 2025 and will reflect the history and culture of the specific neighborhoods where they’ll be located. She said ACE has mapped approximately 500 already existing murals throughout the metropolitan Detroit area.

The project will be led by mural artist Hubert Massey, who was born and raised in Flint and relocated to Detroit approximately 40 years ago.

In public comments delivered in Detroit on Friday afternoon, Massey said the mural project is “about celebrating this city and to see the young folks be able to get involved and create new mural in their neighborhood, to tell their story about their community.”

Massey said he wants to make sure the artists he hires commit to organizing community forums “so they can learn about the history of their community and their culture and by doing that it allows the young folks to embrace our communities even that much more.”

USA Today ranked Detroit fourth in the nation behind first-place Philadelphia for mural art visible from public thoroughfares.

“…[O]ne of the things I did was publicly pledged that we were going to go from number four to number one in street art in America,” Riley said in public comments at a news conference Friday.

Riley added she’s conducted meetings with other cities with similar programs. Detroit is “setting some trends that folks are paying attention to around the country and we are remaking an American city with beauty and art and culture and history,” she said.

Quoting Massie, Riley said, “Public art begins with the community it will serve.”

Noting sometimes public art is viewed as controversial, LaFaive said: “Great art, be it street murals or otherwise, is in the eye of the beholder. People who dislike publicly funded street murals should not be forced to pay for those who do.”

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Bruce Walker is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as editor at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s MichiganScience magazine and The Heartland Institute’s InfoTech & Telecom News.
Photo “Mike Duggan” by Mayor Mike Duggan.


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