Eastern Market Detroit, Flower Market by Bill Whittaker

Detroit is Art — by Cory Latarski

The sun is shining-bright but not blinding-in the blue sky. The air is still cool, but the heat is soon to come. Birds are chirping. There is music, people, a lively feel. People are walking, touching, buying, tasting, and selling. A thin black man is dressed up as Prince and belting out Little Red Corvette in front of a seated, semi-drunk, crowd at Bert’s Marketplace Restaurant. This is Eastern Market on a Saturday morning.

There’s no marble staircase, no charge to get in (no offense to those things), and no pretentious douchebags (no offense to those things… there may be a few hipsters though), but make no mistake the Eastern Market is full of art. First of all the people. People of all colors, shapes, sizes, and ages come together in one place, and it is truly beautiful. It’s a moving, breathing, mural.

Everywhere you look there is colorful artwork. On a red brick building, worn out but still readable, it says “Eastern Market” in white block letters on a fading blue rectangle. Another brick wall above the Farmer’s Restaurant is decorated with a panting of an animal made up of fruits and vegetables eating from a bushel. It looks like some sort of colorful, yet undiscovered species, and it is hard not to take a picture of it.

The outskirts of the Eastern Market are filled with graffiti that makes one feel both sad and hopeful: you marvel at the skill of the artist and also the question of “How did they do that? Did they climb the side of the wall?” The colors and brightness are uplifting and inspire hope of what this city can do.

Venture into the Shed and you will find the pulse of the Market. Inside people are buying and selling everything from produce to pies to t-shirts. Most of these businesses are smaller and family run. You see this reflected in seeing a mom, dad, and son running a stand. It’s like a living, modern day Norman Rockwell painting.

Keep going and you get to the flowers of the Eastern Market. Here you will hear various vendors yelling out prices. “Whole flat for 2 dollars!” “Anything on this flat 5 dollars!” As you walk through the floor is colored in flowers looking like a floral paint by numbers. In one area there are roses of all different colors; of course the traditional like pink and red, but also green, blue, bright orange, and pink. In one bucket is a bunch of roses where every petal is a different color. How did they do this you wonder? I have been many times and the only answer I have is that this is art.

If you cross the bridge walkway over I75 you will come to an altogether different part of the Market. Gratiot Central is where they sell fresh meat, cheese, and seafood. The prices are great, the smell is meaty, and the buildings are old and beautiful. The front of the market is adorned with charming, bright, and funny little vignettes. One has a tall chicken-man standing over a farm and dressed in a light blue and red superman like outfit with “CC” written on his chest, which stands for Cheech’s Chicken. It also lists Cheech’s products in bold silver-grey lettering.

Another says “RJ’s Meat,”,with the RJ in old English lettering, and then says “Get your chittlin holiday hams here” in red, bold lettering, and at the bottom “Happy Holidays.” It includes a painting of an ice pond with snow and evergreens in the background. A snowman is playing the guitar up front while across the pond is a penguin under a Christmas tree and behind them is a rabbit sticking his head out of a hole in the ice. I for one plan to take pictures of these and frame them in my kitchen. They are jovial and cheery and beautiful Americana. They remind us of a simpler time, as does the market on the whole I think.

So, the DIA is saved. Now let’s save the rest of the city, and let’s start by taking a trip the Eastern Market, Detroit’s outdoor accidental art gallery– because Detroit is art.