The newest mural in downtown Berkley was created in partnership with the Detroit Institute of Arts as part of its Partners in Public Art program.

The newest mural in downtown Berkley was created in partnership with the Detroit Institute of Arts as part of its Partners in Public Art program.

Photo by Donna Dalziel


Berkley unveils largest mural to date in downtown

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published December 8, 2021

  Michael Polakowski stands in front of his downtown Berkley mural Dec. 4. The work can be found on the side of the former Berkley Theatre building.

Michael Polakowski stands in front of his downtown Berkley mural Dec. 4. The work can be found on the side of the former Berkley Theatre building.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

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BERKLEY — Downtown Berkley has received yet another mural, this one becoming its largest to date.

In partnership with the Detroit Institute of Arts, the new mural officially was unveiled at 3455 Robina Ave. on the side of the Rite Aid building Dec. 4. The piece was made as part of the DIA’s Partners in Public Art program, in which the museum works with Macomb, Wayne and Oakland county communities to create public art.

The work of art, titled “Daily Drive,” was created by Michael Polakowski, of Dearborn. This was the 10th mural painted by the 26-year-old artist, who’s been painting professionally for five years.

Polakowski said he worked with the city’s public art committee and the DIA to form the idea for the mural, which he described as a snapshot of what it is like to live in Berkley.

“I think of it as, first and foremost, beholden in trying to describe the lives of the people who are going to see it everyday,” he said. “I want to give them something that looks similar to their lived experience of that place. … I kind of thought of this as if you picked any street corner any time of day in Berkley … what does it look like? How are people getting to work? How are people going and moving about their community, and how can I make that look and feel like Berkley?”

Polakowski, a teacher at the College for Creative Studies, said he normally sources a lot of his iconography for his murals from the community and the local environment.

A lot of Polakowski’s work, he said, is representational, but also bold, simplified and geometric, and he always bases his art on places that exist within the city, using ideas such as what the buildings and corridors look like, who the people are who live there, and how they move around.

The finished piece is something that Polakowski said he is “super proud” of, as not only is it the largest mural he’s made, but he created it with some of his former students. That experience was something he loved, as he was able to get them engaged with the art process and making money off their art right after graduating.

“It was kind of like a learning experience for them,” he said. “Less so for me, but seeing your work at that scale is always awe-inspiring and impressive to see. There’s always that moment when you step back and you can finally take it in, not for what the work is going to be, but for, like, (what) the final image is.”

Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Mike McGuinness said the mural’s installation helps Berkley to become a destination for public art and creative experiences.

“This large mural celebrating downtown Berkley — and in partnership with the DIA — is an excellent addition to our downtown murals, and there’s even more to come in the months ahead,” he said.

McGuinness added that the DDA is working on installing more murals in downtown Berkley.

“We have connected with multiple downtown businesses and property owners who are receptive to being new mural sites along Coolidge and along 12 Mile,” he said. “As the warmer months come to us again, we’re really excited about local artists being able to create and make a … dynamic experience for downtown Berkley visitors.”

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