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Only in Detroit – Artist Faces Felony Charges for Street Art

You may have seen some of famous street artist Shepard Fairey’s work pop up recently around downtown. His biggest piece is up on the side of the 1 Campus Martius building along with a few of his familiar street murals in the alley next to the Z Garage known as The Belt. These pieces were commissioned by Dan Gilbert’s crew as the highlight of Fairey’s nearly two week visit and exhibition in the D back in May.

In total, Fairey painted twenty to thirty some murals around the city, some of which have recently come under fire. Supposedly, 23 different pieces of his art were put up on private property whose owners have brought the issue front and center with the city of Detroit. As a result, the city has now brought felony charges against Fairey as a result of nearly $9K in damage.

Typically when I hear of street gangs or even street artists tagging private property and causing damage I would be on the side of the property owners. Nobody should be allowed to come in and damage or change that owner’s property. In this case though, I’m a bit confused. I don’t know if it’s been disclosed as to where these illegal pieces of art went up, but it seems to me that having a world renowned street artist throw his infamous paintings up on your building would be a great thing! His work is iconic, it catches people’s attention, and it could even make someone remember where they saw it – that owner’s building or business!

Detroit is clearly undergoing positive change these last few years and it’s been turning itself into a place where aspiring artists want to launch their careers. This seems like it would be a great thing for the city, but for some reason the authorities and few grumpy property owners don’t see it that way. I would be hard pressed to believe this is the first city where Shepard Fairey has “illegally” painted his murals on private property. Why does Detroit have to be the one that has a problem with it?

Derrick Bollin

Derrick Bollin is a creative business consultant and City Manager of the Detroit Creative Circle office, a specialized staffing agency that represents advertising, marketing, and creative professionals for both freelance and full time opportunities. Prior to joining and getting Creative Circle up and running in Detroit, Derrick worked as a Brand Planner and Strategist at Team Detroit, a full-service advertising agency and AOR for Ford Motor Company. Derrick was born and raised in metro Detroit and currently resides in Pleasant Ridge. Follow him @derrickbollin.