EDHS students decorate signs for empty city buildings

By: Kevin Bunch | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published February 26, 2014

 East Detroit High School art teacher Eric Ceresa shows off a bakery display that a group of his students made. The bakery display and seven others now decorate the vacant Colonial Dodge building on Gratiot Avenue, at Stephens.

East Detroit High School art teacher Eric Ceresa shows off a bakery display that a group of his students made. The bakery display and seven others now decorate the vacant Colonial Dodge building on Gratiot Avenue, at Stephens.

Photo courtesy of Bill Driskell

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EASTPOINTE — Art students in 10th, 11th and 12th grades at East Detroit High School are bringing a splash of color to vacant buildings in the city.

Students made a total of eight window displays showcasing the kinds of businesses that could fill the vacant buildings, which the city’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) can put in the structures’ windows as the authority sees fit. Currently, they are on display at the Colonial Dodge building on the west side of Gratiot Avenue.

Potential businesses ranging from jewelry stores, pet shops and bakeries are highlighted in the signs, and art teacher Eric Ceresa said the students had free rein over what their pictures displayed.

“We had the kids split up into groups of five to paint them,” Ceresa said. “Some mixed colors. The ones who were better at drawing laid it out, and others picked the paints.”

The idea originally came about when Eastpointe Public Information Assistant Bill Driskell contacted the district about doing something to brighten up the vacant properties in the city. The message eventually reached Ceresa, who was interested.

“He didn’t hesitate; he jumped all over it,” Driskell said.

The DDA paid for the art supplies, Driskell said, and Ceresa said the students began working on the project in November, finishing it in December. He said there were two classes working on them, with eight five-student groups.

“The original plan was to make them mobile,” Ceresa said. “They’re here (at Colonial Dodge) now, and we could move them around to other storefronts.”

Daniel Anderson, East Detroit senior, said his group came up with the idea of doing a pet store for their display. He admitted he was not entirely sure where the pet shop idea came from.

“Someone said they wanted a dog, and no one else in the group had an idea, so we went with a pet shop,” Anderson said.

The Colonial Dodge building was selected as the first display site due to how visible the building is and how close it is to Gratiot Avenue, Driskell said, and the city hosted a small, 30-minute kickoff Feb. 18 for kids to come out and see their work on display, though only a few arrived.

The city will store the art when they are not on display, he said.

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