Special:
Public Art in Detroit

Yea, Tho I Walk in the Valley of Art

Braving the Dequindre Cut - by Nick Sousanis



On a crisp early autumn
afternoon in Detroit, some friends and I went walking in search of a different sort of public art. Armed with more cameras than people and one football, six of us clambered down into the abandoned railway known as the Dequindre Cut. While it once served to bring people and goods to and from the city, the corridor is now overgrown with trees and has become a grand outdoor studio for graffiti artists and sculptors.


Sunk well below street level, the constant sounds of traffic are nonexistent. Only the occasional tall building visible above the canyonesque walls provide any hints that we are still within the busy city. Passing mounds of trash and burned-out cars, the experience is like being transported to the site of an ancient ruin or the post-apocalyptic future of "Planet of the Apes."


Free from interruptions and the fear of being caught while working, graffiti artists have used this space to create expansive masterpieces. The lack of an audience down here does not seem to have limited their passion for expression. (If someone "tagged" a tree in the forest and no one was there to see it ….) The graffiti murals primarily adorn the walls beneath overhead roadways. The bridge's concrete support columns echo the grand archways of a palatial museum. Further along the way, an enterprising sculptor's assemblage of installations from large heaby railroad ties indicates the artist's serious commitment to his or her art.


The line ends just South of Jefferson, near Woodbridge Street in the mostly vacant River Town district. Once on the surface, however, we walked through a series of downtown parks, football flying and a light rain falling. As our walk came to an end, the sun peeked through the clouds, and another public work of art filled the sky.
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