Grand River Creative Corridor & Derek Weaver

Photos of the Grand River Creative Corridor are ready to view, slideshow

In the history of Michigan, Grand River Ave is a landmark. The road was born as a path had made by Native Americans along the north bank of the Cedar River . The road stretched from Portland to Detroit and was the main trade route of Michigan until the railway was built. Grand River assumed primary importance when tolls were distributed in the section between Howell and Lansing. A new chapter in the history of Grand River began with the development of  the University Campus and MAC. With the bankruptcy of the city, many shops on Grand River were forced to close and the road became an artery of expressways. Later, the Avenue became a gathering place of criminals and homeless.

The deterioration and heedlessness for many years characterized this area as one of the highest risk crime zones in all of Detroit. Yet, there were people who with foresight were able to see in those buildings torn by vandalism and years of neglect a chance to engender an artistic project that would attract tourists and investors.

The first to believe in the revival of Grand River was Derek Weaver, who had arrived in Detroit to attend the University. After two years of commuting along the road he glimpsed the possibility to create a business in that area.

Derek Weaver was born in Wyandotte Mi, a little city in the South of Detroit, studied in Trenton, where he earned three varsity letters for the Trojans before graduating in 2005. He became managing director at 4731 Gallery  in 2010 and brought within the gallery a lot of artists. From there was born the idea to expand the street art along Grand River Ave in in the half mile stretch between Warren Avenue and Rosa Parks Blvd. So in June of 2012 Weaver started his project entitled “Grand River Creative Corridor, or GRCC, which received a “Keep Michigan Beautiful” award from Michigan governor Rick Snyder.

The project involved over  100 artists, many of whom  reside in the metro area of Detroit such as: Kosek, Christopher Batten, Iges, Ramen, Malt, Clifton Perry, Tead, Sham, Lamar Landers, Patrick Mills, Halima Cassells, Fel Alonzo Edwards, Sydney G. James and Kobie Solomon who painted Detroit Chimera Graffiti Mural on the west-facing wall of the Russell Industrial Center’s number two building located at 1600 Clay Avenue in Midtown Detroit , Michigan.

The project was financed by funding from Midtown Detroit , Inc. (through the Colin Hubbell Fund) and Financial Partners, LLC of Commerce Township, as well as from Weaver himself.

“The Grand River Creative Corridor is a creative solution to blight control,” Weaver said. “What we’re doing is not graffiti” and these were not just words, but it was transformed into action. Besides the artists, there was also a group of volunteers who worked to clean up the area from the garbage to make accessible works .

Everything was going well when … as a bolt from the blue it rained fines for many owners of Grand River Ave buildings that had housed the graffiti.

According to Detroit’s laws, building owners are responsible for removing unwanted graffiti from the exteriors of their properties. Once a ticket issued stating they have 14 days to remove the graffiti, after which the fine is enforced.

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Also Derek Weaver received something like $8,000 in fines for not removing the murals by his own buildings.

“We were treated like criminals …They threatened to arrest us,” Weaver said to Motor City Muckraker. “I told the mayor that if you aren’t careful, and if you come down with iron fists, you’ll force a lot of good artists, entrepreneurs and small business owners out of the city,” Weaver told the Detroit Free Press.

Deveri Gifford and Jason Yates, owners of the restaurant Brooklyn St. Local located at 1266 Michigan Avenue were also fined. “I understand that graffiti is a problem in this city and a problem for business owners who get unwanted tags etc. on their buildings, however the street art is a significant part of what makes Detroit great and unique and it deserves to be celebrated!” one of Brooklyn Street Local’s owners wrote on the diner’s Facebook page. “We would also like to express our appreciation to mayor Mike Duggan who quickly responded and personally apologized for the issued tickets.”

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