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Great Summer Road Trips
Art Metropolis


Drive time: 4.5 hours

In Detroit, “renaissance” is a familiar word. It hovers above the city in its tallest building, GM’s Renaissance Center, and gets tossed around in think pieces about the Rust Belt. But now the term applies to Detroit’s cultural vibe, too. The Motor City is in the midst of its own creative rediscovery, fueled by a renewed interest in its gritty art scene. In these five neighborhoods, you’ll find murals, sculptures, and neograffiti by artists of local and international fame who are reshaping Detroit’s story.

Published May 19, 2016


Woodward Avenue between the Edsel Ford and Fisher Freeways

Diego Rivera mural
Photo: Courtesy of Detroit Institute of Arts

Buzzy galleries include the Simone DeSousa Gallery, whose roster includes ceramicist Marie R. Hermann and mixed-media artist Timothy van Laar. It would be plain irresponsible not to visit the Detroit Institute of Arts. Start on the second floor, where the famous Diego Rivera murals pay homage to Detroit’s industrial legacy. Afterward, head to the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art, which boasts one of the world’s finest collections of African American pieces. Finally, step just outside Midtown’s boundaries to visit the David Klein Gallery, where you’ll find masterworks from painter Ross Bleckner and sculptor Betty Woodman.



The intersection of Broadway Street and Gratiot Avenue

The Belt
Photo: Sal Rodriguez

Even parking provides an opportunity for embellishment in Detroit. Twenty-seven international street artists, including Maya Hayuk, Interesni Kazki, Cyrcle, and Gaia, adorned the 10-floor Z parking garage with 130-foot-wide murals. The Belt, a brightly lit alleyway running beside Z, features several works by Obama “Hope” man Shepard Fairey. Round the corner on Library Street and pop into the literally named Library Street Collective, an edgy contemporary gallery with rotating exhibits from still more street artists.

New Shepard Fairey mural in Detroit  Photo: Michelle & Chris Gerard


East Side

The intersection of Heidelberg and Mount Elliott Streets

The Heidelberg Project
The Heidelberg Project  Photo: Michelle Gerard

Created by artist Tyree Guyton, the Heidelberg Project is an open-air Seussian fever dream comprising a polka-dot street, four wildly patterned houses, and found-object sculptures made from shopping carts, old cars, stuffed animals, and, well, pretty much anything else you can imagine. After strolling the two-block neighborhood, head three miles east to Pewabic. Even if you don’t know the name, you probably know the ceramics studio’s work: It made the bright fish tiles in the Shedd Aquarium’s entrance hall.


Eastern Market

The intersection of Russell and Adelaide Streets

Shark Toof mural
A mural by Shark Toof  Photo: Michelle Gerard

Sample local food at the outdoor market (open Saturdays) while strolling past the 40-plus colorful murals painted last year during the city’s Murals in the Market event by artists such as Shark Toof and Chicago’s Hebru Brantley. Head down Gratiot Avenue to visit Trinosophes, a gallery, café, and performance space where on any given night you can find a poetry slam or experimental jazz show. In the evening, stop by the Red Bull House of Art, which showcases a new group of emerging artists every three months.

A mural by Chicgo’s Hebru Brantley  Photo: Sal Rodriguez

West Side

Grand River Avenue from Grand Boulevard to Rosa Parks Boulevard

An African bead
Photo: Courtesy of Dabl’s African Bead Gallery and MBAD museum

A bead museum? It’s more badass than you think. Dabl’s African Bead Gallery and MBAD Museum is home to a monumental bauble collection. (Quentin Tarantino is a fan.) Then tour the Grand River Creative Corridor, a neighborhood revitalization project involving—you guessed it—murals.

While You’re There:Climb through a cave, explore a yurt, or hop on a kayak simulator at the Outdoor Adventure Center.

Where to Stay:Sleep like an auto baron in one of the Inn on Ferry Street’s restored Victorian mansions (from $169, innonferrystreet.com).

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