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Students capture Detroit’s spirit on canvas

February 25, 2013

DETROIT — It all began with an idea.

Last summer, Arts Academy In The Woods Principal Maxwell Spayde emailed several students to inquire about a project that needed time and their talent.

Student artists were sought to create a mural inside the breezeway that connects the Chrysler House building to a parking garage in downtown Detroit.

Several students signed on and quickly made sketches of what to create to fill the two empty walls. By September, the students started drawing, shading and painting images inside the walkway they say celebrates the Motor City spirit. The Chrysler House, located at 719 Griswold, is used as an office building with retail space on the street level.

Arts Academy In The Woods 2012 graduate Anthony Chirco, who now attends Macomb Community College, served as the project leader.

“I tried putting as much Detroit as I could,” the Clinton Township resident said. “Detroit is a little urban, a little nightlife, a little sports town.”

The colorful portrait visually depicts Detroit’s highlights, heritage and history. Onlookers will spot the Belle Isle Conservatory, the city’s skyline of historic buildings, tree clusters, Hart Plaza, “The Spirit of Detroit” sculpture, and the Detroit Institute of Arts’ “Thinker” is doing what he does best: contemplating.  

There are some twists and turns of the People Mover, a steeple to represent the city’s churches, and the Detroit Zoo’s water tower. The wall becomes a little sporty with the roar of the Detroit Tigers and and Al the Octopus clad in a Red Wings jersey. A bit of graffiti also can be spotted.

“I think it’s spectacular,” Spayde said, adding there are still some finishing touches to complete. “It really shows the dedication they have to their craft.”

Bedrock Management provided the project’s paint and supplies, and the students tackled different jobs. Senior Shelby Klobucar, of Oakland Township, jumped at the chance to create an image of the Supremes. She has grown up with their music by way of her mother, Lisa Benedict.

“As a kid, she would play a lot of oldies and the Supremes,” Klobucar said.

The mural features the likeness of Diana Ross — center stage with her arms thrown in the air — Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard. Their sparkling red evening gowns and ’60s wigs bring back Motown Records memories. Klobucar joked Ross is hogging the spotlight and shared a story that has been in Benedict’s family for years. 

Ross and Klobucar’s grandmother once got into a scuffle back in their high school days. Although Ross went to Cass Tech and Klobucar’s grandmother went to Northwestern, not far from where the Hitsville U.S.A. building stands, the two reportedly had a tiff as teens, although the reason for it remains unclear. It was a story Klobucar often heard.

Benedict — who visited the mural Feb. 20 with husband Jerry, Klobucar and daughter Sydne Klobucar, a freshman at Arts Academy In The Woods — thought the mural turned out “awesome.”

“Their creation is just wonderful,” she said. 

Seniors Haylie Mousseau, Rachel MacLean, Rachel Bush and 2011 graduate Jennifer Lukowski also worked on the mural. The trees and octopus were painted by MacLean, a Roseville resident. Mousseau, of St. Clair Shores, made sure to use plenty of detail when painting the city’s historic buildings.

Seniors Crystal Clemons and Marley Jauw, and juniors Justin English, Holly Galvan and Elena Hunsanger worked on the project, too. Some students, like Klobucar, worked on the mural every weekend since September. Heading downtown on a regular basis was exciting for the young adults.

“I love it,” Bush, of Shelby Township, said. “I love the city.”

Arts Academy In The Woods, located in Fraser, is a fine and performing arts school chartered through the Macomb Intermediate School District. The school offers dance, guitar, jazz band, vocal music, theater, two- and three-dimensional art and multi-media art. The core curriculum, including English, math and science, is also taught.

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