“I painted him as a monument”: Public Art as Protest in Detroit

Kaeleigh Herstad (US)

This photo essay documents and explores recent public art in made in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in Detroit, Michigan. These works of art—which range from informal yard signs to large-scale installations and commissioned works—connect Detroit to national discourse around police brutality by memorializing and honoring Black Detroiters killed by police alongside other, more recent victims of police violence elsewhere in the United States. They are often in conversation with other memorials in the city, and they express collective grief, anger, support, exhaustion, and hope and encouragement for the future.

This essay will examine how these recent public works of art engage with Detroit’s legacy of racism and police brutality against Black residents. What does it mean to, as one artist put it, paint someone not as a person, but as a monument? And finally, how do these issues relate to and intersect with other ongoing forms of violence against Black residents, such as the disinvestment in and wide-scale demolition of Black neighborhoods and gentrification?

Click here to read the photo essay