Gallery: Black-led mural festival enlivens Detroit's North End, works in progress show

July 22, 2021, 8:23 PM

Portrait emerging at 7809 Oakland Ave. near Smith Street is of Yolanda Renee Williams, a local beauty products entrepreneur. It's by Rick Williams, her husband, and Sydney G. James. (Photos: Lamar Landers) 

Posters for a one-week mural festival say it starts Saturday, but local and visiting artists already spray paint on bricks.

BLKOUT Walls, a new Black-led event, is adding 24 large murals on commercial buildings along Oakland Avenue from East Grand Boulevard up to Owens Street, north of the New Center area. (Map of painting sites.)

The goals are to support street art creators with participation fees and visibility, while drawing attention to the North End to "ignite interest in the area as both a residential and commercial destination," organizers post at the inaugural event's site

In contrast to most mural festivals, they add, "seventy-five percent of the participating muralists and event producers are Black and/or people of color, mirroring the demographics of the city." Painters from Brooklyn, Boston, Chicago, Memphis and Denver get lodging, meals and transportation stipends.


The founders are Sydney G. James of Detroit, Thomas ("Detour") Evans of Denver and Max Sansing of Chicago.

Detroiters on the scissor lifts along Oakland and a few adjacents streets, such as East Milwaukee as Bethune avenuees, are Phil Simpson, Bakpak Durden, Tylonn Sawyer, Ijania Cortez, Matt ("Ghostbeard") Hutton and Tony Whlgn. Joe ("Cashiesh") Cazeno of Southfield also is painting.

Support comes from the Knight Foundation, Kresge Foundation, Ford Foundation, Detroit Pistons, Vans footwear, Montana Cans spray paint and smallers sponsors.

The festival ends with a July 31 street celebration from noon to 6 p.m. at the Chroma Building, 2937 E. Grand Blvd. -- which James brightened last September with a nine-story mural called "The Girl with the D Earring."

Below are photos of early activity, shot by Lamar Landers for the festival. They show that "the BLKOUT Walls team did NOT come to play," as James posts on social media.

Michael ("Birdcap") Roy, a 34-year-old Mississippi painter, creates a colorfully whimsical wall at 449 E. Milwaukee.

Rick Williams of Detroit is working with Sydney G. James, who's on the lift at rear and in the next image.

Max Sansing of Chicago, one of the event founders, is working at 7809 Oakland Ave. (east side of building).

Spectators Sudani Shaah and Sabrina Nelson.

Michael Roy pauses near the start of his East Milwaukee Street project.
Thomas ("Detour") Evans, a festival co-founder, paints at 622 E. Bethune St.

(Graphic: Wikipedia)


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