DETROIT (AP) — Vacant, burned out and abandoned houses that pockmark Detroit are seen by many as part of a tired, urban landscape that has surrendered to decades of decay. But a group of artists see something else: opportunity.
A half dozen out-of-state artists have added color, design and edge to four houses on the city’s east side with $180,000 from San Francisco’s Juxtapoz art magazine, following in the footsteps of several local artists who found inspiration amid blight. The magazine’s upcoming February issue will feature their efforts.
"Detroit was great from a creative and personal perspective," said San Francisco artist Richard Colman, who helped turn the walls of a small bungalow into a canvas of black, white and silver patterns.
"We were simply trying to breathe new life into an otherwise unused and decaying structure," he told the Detroit Free Press.
Saelee Oh, another artist commissioned by the magazine, touched up another house with a three-dimensional work that included dogs and birdhouses.
"It’s a dying, collapsing city that’s like a ghost town in many ways, but for an artist or any creative person, there’s also this wonderful sense of expansive opportunity that I haven’t felt in any other U.S. city," Oh wrote about Detroit on her blog.
"In that sense, it is very much alive and I’m glad to have given Detroit what we made there in two weeks and left behind."
Juxtapoz picked the work of artists Mitch Cope and his wife, Gina Reichert, in the Moran Street area as the beneficiary of the $180,000 visit by the six artists.
The magazine expects to continue sending artists to Detroit, in part, "to promote creativity and participation in the re-imagining of America’s urban neighborhoods," the newspaper reported.
The artists will have a big canvas.
Detroit had more than 30,000 vacant or abandoned houses, according to a survey released earlier this year. On some city blocks, only a handful or fewer homes are occupied.
About two decades ago, Detroit artist Tyree Guyton painted colorful polka dots on abandoned houses in one deteriorating neighborhood. He also hung stuffed animals and sneakers on trees, houses and placed them in vacant lots along Heidelberg Street.
Other examples of Detroit’s growing social art movement include a series of crumbling houses painted bright orange.
British Graffiti artist Banksy visited the city earlier this year, leaving at least one signature mural in a long-abandoned car factory.
"I love it here. It’s some kind of new freedom," said Netherlands artist and carpenter Erik Jutten.
Jutten is working in Detroit on a grant from a foundation in his home country. He has helped Cope on a renovation project on Moran.