Public art for Detroit/Windsor

Chicago did cows. Toronto did moose. Cincinnati did pigs. New Orleans did fish. In Oakland County, Rochester did ewes. Tourists came to bear witness. Corporate moneybags dished out major bucks and in doing so, raised money for charities and artists.

Detroit is next.

In coming weeks an international committee will announce a public art project to place between 150 and 200 car sculptures — decorated by local artists — in downtown Detroit and Windsor. The car art will be placed on sidewalks and private property, with a concentration on Detroit’s Woodward corridor from the New Center to the river, from the Lodge Freeway to I-75.

In a celebration of the two cities’ auto heritage, the car sculptures — each 7 feet long, 3 1/2 feet tall and 3 1/2 feet wide, and made of fiberglass and resin — will be installed next summer.

“They’ll be everywhere. We’re even trying to figure out if we can place one on the river somewhere,” says Marilyn Wheaton, president of the CarTunes on Parade committee. “The density is important, because we want to have walking tours. We’ll have maps printed. In Chicago, people came from all over, and you could see the cows for blocks.”

Wheaton, the former director of Detroit’s Cultural Affairs Department, says by April her committee and the cities’ two mayors will announce the project’s major sponsors. Wheaton is withholding details until then, but says the Big Three auto companies and local banks are on board.

The plan has been in the works for two years, but Wheaton only recently obtained the necessary financial commitments. More than $160,000 of the $1 million budget has been raised, she says.

The car art will be displayed from June through September 2005. In October 2005, most of the cars will be auctioned to the highest bidders. Proceeds will be split three ways. The artist and a charity of the buyer’s choice will each get a third of the money. The final third will go to the Detroit YMCA, if the CarTune was sponsored by a Detroit business or individual, or to the Windsor Endowment of the Arts, if the CarTune was sponsored by a Windsor business or individual.

CarTunes is meant to highlight the cultural importance of cars and music to the two cities, and artists are encouraged to incorporate musical themes into the car designs, Wheaton says. Carolyne Rourke, president of the Windsor Endowment for the Arts, had the idea to include Detroit’s Canadian sister city in the project. Windsor artist Joe DeAngelis designed the car model everyone will work with.

“Detroit and Windsor have a historical international friendship,” says Wheaton. “The automobile and music are the two things we share in our heritage. That’s it. That’s our culture. Automobiles are as important in Windsor as they are in Detroit.”

Sponsors are forking out $5,000 per car, with the option of owning the cars they sponsor once the exhibit comes down, and with the option of placing the sponsored cars wherever they’d like during the exhibition period, including at suburban and other locations.

Soon, artists will be able to apply online to be part of the exhibit. Applicants will get a 12-inch model to decorate. A jury, not yet selected, will choose the winning artists, who will receive a $1,500 stipend and a CarTune sculpture to decorate.

“This is Detroit’s signature event for 2005 as far as tourism goes,” says Wheaton. “This is going to be big. It’s the only project like this that is international. It’s going to draw people and attention to Detroit from all over.”

Lisa M. Collins is the arts editor of Metro Times. E-mail [email protected]
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