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For the exhibition Past is Present at Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit, 12 artists were commissioned to make murals reflecting on Detroit’s history. The exhibition opened on September 6th, 1913, on the 70th anniversary of Diego Rivera’s celebrated mural Detroit Industry, two blocks away at the Detroit Institute of the Arts. My mural, Feel Free to Pull Weeds, focused on a fascinating and largely unexplored aspect of Detroit’s present – its twin status as both a designated “food desert” and the city with the largest urban farming movement in the US. 

In 2007 Farmer Jack, the last remaining major grocery store in Detroit, closed its doors. In June 2013, after five years of negotiations and $4.2 million in tax breaks, Whole Foods opened in Detroit, a few blocks down the street from both the MOCAD and the DIA. And just like them, Whole Foods also decided to commission artists to make murals –four mural commissions for Detroit-based artists for the building exterior.

My sketch for the mural was a composite of found images. The sketch was then translated into a mural by a sign painter. The found images include: the closing of Farmer Jack on the left, workers setting up one of the Whole Foods murals in the background, a bankruptcy sign, an abandoned building, an urban farm in the foreground, and a compost bin from Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. My title for the mural came from a sign I saw on a Detroit community garden – “feel free to pull weeds.”



2013, sketch for mural

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