Featured Artist Q&A: Detroit Youth

This summer, youth from Vangaurd Community Development Corporation completed a series of murals throughout the NorthEnd neighborhood. Working with local businesses and artists, CM caught up with some of the youth to reflect on this process.

CM: Which murals did you work on? What are the themes you explored in the murals?

Haiku: “Dream Big”, “Choose Your Path” We wanted to represent the community. They always open doors for you.

Latrice: The superhero one. It’s about what powers we would have to help the community.

CM: Which one are you?

Latrice: The one with the blue shirt.

CM:What was your power?

Latrice: To fix houses and put homeless people in them.

CM: Do you think you have that power now?

Latrice: … It might take me some time!

CM: How did you decide what should be represented in the murals?

Haiku: We took walks around the neighborhood and sketched out a lot of ideas. We wanted to show the better parts of the community. In my life, I’ve already done five or six murals.

CM: And you are only 16.

Haiku: Yes! One of my dreams is to travel and do murals in different countries with youth, to trigger that part of their mind that makes them want to go crazy and do art.

CMHow did you make decisions as a group?

DJ: We made decisions by voting. Nobody had problems with it.

Latrice: We listened and negotiated with each other. We had to put all of our ideas together to get the job done.

Haiku: We sketched a lot. We debated from that and voted on the best ideas.

CM: What do you hope people will get out of the murals?

DJ: Anything that people put their minds to they can do.

Latrice: I hope it will motivate them.

Haiku: My main objective for doing this, my main passion for it, is to beautify the community. So that people will put more energy into their community. To want to do more and impact the lives of youth.

CM: Are there things that happened that surprised you?

DJ: The way people reacted to it. Everyday we’d have five or six people come by. We’d see travelers come by. They would take pictures, video, and say, “Oh, this is Detroit. Detroit is becoming something new.” I also started noticing places more. Like the auto shop. I never notice that place.  I never knew there was an auto shop there. Now it’s one of those places you can’t ignore.

Latrice: Drawing the faces was very difficult. It was a big process. Our group was like, “Uh oh, that doesn’t look anything like me.”

Haiku: The weather. The weather was definitely a big difficulty. There was one week where we had to stay inside for the entire week. It was so hot.

CM: How does having the murals in your neighborhood affect your community?

DJ It shows that I’m a leader and not a follower. When I get older, maybe when I’m thirty and I have a family, I’ll ride by and say I did that. And you can too. It makes me think of the future instead of standing in the past.

Latrice: They have respect for it for sure. I think it’s awesome because it’s something I never did before.

Haiku: The beauty of our community. It makes it a better place visually. I feel good about doing something I love.

CM: What is it about art that moves people?

DJ: The colors. It makes people feel like they’re one with the painting.

Latrice: Colors. The way it can be shaped and what it means to people when they look at it.

Haiku: Art is all around you. It gets you going. You need art to live.

CM: What would you say to other young people who want to get involved in community art projects?

DJ: Put everything you got into it. Don’t let anyone hold you back.

Latrice: Give it your best shot. Try something new.

Haiku: I never imagined I’d be able to do murals until I tried. Art brings a lot of joy and amusement. You can reflect a part of yourself and what you are doing in your community.

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