New app identifies and tracks murals around Detroit

CANVS Street Art will tell users location of public art in Detroit and artist behind it

click to enlarge Bakpak Durden poses in front of their mural at BLKOUT Walls Festival. - JUSTIN W. MILHOUSE
Justin W. Milhouse
Bakpak Durden poses in front of their mural at BLKOUT Walls Festival.

Ever seen a mural in Detroit and wished you knew who painted it? There’s an app for that.

The Detroit Office of Arts, Culture, & Entrepreneurship is partnering with art technology company CANVS to create a digital map of murals around the city, with photos and bios of the artists who painted them. The map will be featured on ACE’s website as well as the CANVS Street Art app.

ACE announced the partnership with CANVS Wednesday, which is a part of Detroit Mayor Duggan’s "Blight to Beauty" campaign.

Director of Arts and Culture Rochelle Riley tells Metro Times she thinks Detroit may have more murals than any other city in America. From Eastern Market's Murals in the Market to Sydney James’ BLKOUT Walls Festival in and around the North End neighborhood, Detroit’s love affair with murals is strong.

“We want to challenge other cities to see if they have more than Detroit,” she says. “We do have some of the best murals in the country, and I want us to honor all of the excellence that’s here and I want people to know who’s behind the beauty they’re seeing. I want to really connect our city to our creative workforce and lift up these artists so they can get the support and acclaim they deserve.”

Riley says all of the murals in Detroit’s Historic North End neighborhood, where BLKOUT Walls was held in 2021, are already uploaded to the app, and they are working on mapping out the rest of the city. She expects the project to be complete by summertime.

“I think a lot of Detroiters don’t know how great Detroit is, and we want to make sure that every Detroiter is proud of the talent that’s here, not just in visual art, but in performance art and music too,” she says. “When we were called the 'Paris of the Midwest' years ago, there was a reason for that. This is literally a city that once had 20 theaters, and there were musicians on every street.”
Riley and the ACE team were joined by artist Sheefy McFly, CANVS co-founder Ralph Andre, Detroit's neighborhood arts development program manager Sam Coons, and Detroit’s City Walls director Zachary Meers to announce the project on Wednesday.

“When art becomes more accessible, it allows people to better connect with the city,” CANVS co-founder Lorren Cargill said. “'The Girl with the D Earring' — people know that now. We’re all a part of that context-setting. Once people find the murals and learn about the artists, they’re able to connect with different parts of the city and know Detroit’s artists.

Cargill said he enjoyed seeing all the murals from BLKOUT Walls.

“I had a good time there with all those murals," he said. "That place is in my mind now. I have stories there. I met people who live there. Street art allows you do that across Detroit.”

The CANVS initiative is being co-sponsored by the Ford Foundation.

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