If you find yourself heading down Grand River Avenue in Detroit, be prepared to feel like Dorothy waking up in Oz after you cross Warren Avenue. It’s in the half mile stretch between Warren Avenue and Rosa Parks Blvd that you’ll find yourself on a street come alive with color, thanks to the Grand River Creative Corridor, or GRCC, the public art project initiated in the summer of 2012 by Derek Weaver.
When Derek first came to Detroit to attend Wayne State University, he wasn’t exactly thrilled with the idea. After two years of commuting, and plenty of time spent driving through what some may coin the “rougher” areas of Detroit, Derek began to see the opportunity surrounding him. As he puts it, he found that, “People who stay in or come to Detroit come to create and start something.”
This is exactly what Derek did. Upon becoming managing director at Detroit’s 4731 Gallery in the fall of 2010, Derek
expected to use his real estate savvy to help turn around the failing project, but did not anticipate the immersion into the arts he would experience. “I came in with my corporate hat, but two years later, I am now wearing artist overalls,” he said.
His gig at the 4731 Gallery may have been a major part of what kept him in Detroit, but Derek’s passion for revitalization has expanded far beyond these walls. Derek says that he believes art could be a catalyst for a very positive change in the community, saying, “It takes creativity to change or improve anything. […] Art, public art, has the power to re-image, reinvent, and bring life to a neighborhood or city.”
And the Grand River Creative Corridor, launched July 15th, 2012, is doing just that. The GRCC now boasts over 100 murals and exhibits spanning fifteen buildings and a dozen free standing structures, and also includes an outdoor fine-arts gallery at a bus stop.
Modeled after artist Diego Rivera’s 1930s “Detroit Industry” frescoes which brought his interpretations of Detroit to the public, the gallery is a collection of ten artists’ depictions of Detroit and the future aspirations for the motor city. It is, like the GRCC as a whole, a diverse collection of work.
Such diversity is another aim of the project, as the GRCC welcomes artists from all backgrounds and skill sets to share their work, with Derek noting, “We want to represent diversity and promote inclusion not only in the corridor, but also in Detroit.” The GRCC is succeeding: the project not only brings art to the Detroit streets, but also attracts tourists, artists, and businesses– while removing overgrown vegetation, trash, and vandalism.
With 45 volunteer artists bringing their vision to the streets of Detroit, and the next phase of the GRCC launching in the spring of 2013, this truly is just the beginning of what this exciting project is bringing to the city. As Derek puts it, “People by nature tend to resist or avoid change, but the key is that it has to start somewhere. We start with art.”