Extending from the general vicinity of the Eastern Market District all the way to the Dequindre Cut, giant murals cover the brick walls of dozens of Detroit’s buildings.
Some pieces are tributes while several depict Detroit symbols such as a lion, a car, and Aretha Franklin. Some of the most moving works, though, are the ones that touch on social issues. Such pieces celebrate African-American accomplishments, pay homage to Mexican migrant workers who harvest the food that feeds so much of the U.S., and express solidarity with the Native Americans of Standing Rock.
The pieces treating this latter topic are exquisite. A young Native American girl, surrounded by a circle of water and the visages of other indigenous people, raises a resolute fist in one painting. A more abstract representation is a short walk away and depicts a lady who appears to be Mother Earth being followed by a mysterious figure on a bike, the front basket of which contains a barrel that says “Free the Water” on it. The woman’s water—which constitutes a significant part of her body— is being steadily sucked into said container.
The vast majority of these murals owe their existence to an annual festival sponsored by 1xRUN, an art publisher, called Murals in the Market. Besides bringing in talented artists for a giant paint fest, the coordinators of the festival hold panel discussions, dinners, outdoor block parties, and other events. For a relatively new tradition, Murals in the Market has had a huge impact on the city of Detroit. As of 2018—a mere three years after its inception—over 120 murals had been painted by local and international artists.