Sheefy McFly mural in Detroit 'censored' following complaint

click to enlarge A mural by Detroit artist Sheefy McFly was modified after someone complained about one of the figures' butts. - Lee DeVito
Lee DeVito
A mural by Detroit artist Sheefy McFly was modified after someone complained about one of the figures' butts.

Detroit artist Sheefy McFly was driving around town Monday night showing his artwork to a friend who was visiting from Los Angeles when he realized somebody had altered one of his murals in Eastern Market.

The mural, located next door to Louisiana Creole Gumbo and created in 2018 for the Murals in the Market festival, shows a group of Keith Haring-inspired figures dancing. Over a twerking character's butt, someone painted a black rectangle with the words "censored by the city."

"So the @cityofdetroit 'censored' one of my murals ….." McFly posted on Instagram, adding, "I kind of feel like the city defaced my artwork… they didn’t talk to me about anything …."

Reached by phone, McFly tells Metro Times he wasn't completely caught off guard. He had heard at some point over the past year that the city received a complaint about it, and he was in talks with the Murals in the Market festival organizers to modify it in some way. But he says nobody told him that they were actually going to go ahead and alter it.

"I could have just put pants on it or changed the character," he says. "I just don't like that."

John Roach, the City of Detroit's director of communications, tells Metro Times that an employee of the Mayor's office did receive a citizen complaint about the mural, and connected the building owner with the resident.

"So if the mural was altered, it was not at the city's direction or request," he says.

click to enlarge Sheefy McFly's mural in early 2021. - Kelley O'Neill
Kelley O'Neill
Sheefy McFly's mural in early 2021.

Indeed, building owner Marc Wolf admits to Metro Times that it was actually he who altered the artwork. Wolf says he decided to take matters into his own hands when talks with Murals in the Market to get McFly to modify it seemed to stall.

"I didn't hear back from him, so I decided that I would take care of it and paint a black square, as you see, and you know, just put a little censored sign on it," Wolf says. "I don't know [McFly's] reaction. I did not see that. I mean, hopefully he's not tremendously upset with me."

Wolf says the building is vacant but he has listed it for sale. "I'm a third-generation business-owner in the city of Detroit, and we've always kept our property up," he says. "So I'm like, OK, I don't need to hear more from the city. I got other things to worry about."

He adds, "By no means was I trying to insult [McFly] or upset him. I just figured you know what, I get it. He's busy. So here's my quick answer. I'm going to take care of it so I don't hear any more from the city."

McFly tells Metro Times that he sympathizes with Wolf's predicament.

"I don't got no problem with the building owner," he says. "I'm not trying to cause friction with the city or nothing. ... He's just making sure he's not getting harassed by police in the city. Putting my feet in other people's shoes, I understand the situation. However on a larger scale, [the city] pressured somebody to deface my [art]."

This isn't McFly's first incident with the city. In 2019, McFly was arrested by Detroit police while painting a mural on Seven Mile Road. Police thought he was vandalizing a wall, but in fact, McFly was painting a mural commissioned by Detroit for its City Walls beautification project. He wound up spending a night in jail.

"There's only so much you can do so because the city always throws bullshit my way when it comes to art," McFly says. "It's just tiresome at this point."

He adds, "It's just a crazy realization working with the city and doing murals and bringing art to a city that doesn't understand it. ... That's what the city needs to learn. Respect the artists, learn more about the artists, really see how art is the biggest export of Detroit, not cars ... We're changing the city, and we need more respect."

McFly says he's open to working with the building owner to modify the artwork — in a way that he approves.

"That's my big thing, just respect to artists," he says. "That's all."

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About The Author

Lee DeVito

Leyland “Lee” DeVito is the editor in chief of Detroit Metro Times since 2016. His writing has also been published in Hour Detroit, VICE, In These Times, and New City. He once asked porn star Stormy Daniels to spank him with an issue of Metro Times. She obliged...
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