NFHS alumna among artists featured in NFL themed Detroit art contest

By: Charity Meier | Farmington Press | Published May 21, 2024

 Artist Juliana Rabban, an alumna  of North Farmington High School, points to her signature on the giant cleat she painted for the DCleated art project.

Artist Juliana Rabban, an alumna of North Farmington High School, points to her signature on the giant cleat she painted for the DCleated art project.

Photo provided by Juliana and Jenny Rabban


FARMINGTON HILLS — A North Farmington High School alumna recently had her artwork featured in the DCleated Sculpture Project, which was put on by  Detrit’s City Walls initiative in conjunction with Visit Detroit in celebration of  “the city’s vibrant spirit and community-driven initiatives” during the NFL draft.

Juliana Rabban, 22, of Farmington, a 2020 graduate of NFHS, was selected from over 100 applicants to be one of 20 local artists to participate in the project.

Participants painted a giant prefabricated cleat, 5 feet tall, 30 inches square and mounted on a steel plate. Each cleat weighs 125 pounds.

The cleats were displayed throughout the city during the month of April. A silent auction was held for each, with the funds going toward a local charity of the artist’s choice.

Bethany Howard, City Walls project manager, said that her supervisor, Zak Meers, the blight remediation division head for the city of Detroit and an avid sports fan, modeled the project after the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats, which pairs NFL stars with artists to paint cleats that are then worn by the star and sold to benefit charities of the stars’ choice. Her supervisor wanted to do it on a more colossal scale, and thus the DCleated Project was born.

“It’s kind of blossomed into this awesome Instagramable moment,” said Howard. “It’s very exciting to see people get excited, the artists included, and then the organizations that they have decided to partner with to just highlight some of the work that people are doing in Detroit at all times.”

She said the people really seemed to love the cleats and could be seen taking pictures of them over the course of the month.  “I think the feedback has been grand. It’s just quite pleasing and magical, if you will,” said Howard.

“I was just super drawn to (the project) because I just love doing stuff with the community and I just think it’s such a powerful thing to do,” said Rabban.

Rabban selected Kids Without Cancer as her charity to support. The organization was founded as Leukemia, Research, Life in 1981 and was renamed Kids Without Cancer in 2011.  Kids Without Cancer raises money to fund pediatric cancer research that is being conducted at Children’s Hospital of Michigan and its affiliates at Wayne State University and the Karmanos Cancer Institute.

Rabban said she chose KWC as she has had multiple family members stricken with the disease.  She hopes to donate over $100,000 in her lifetime to support families and researchers.

“I just think it’s something everyone can relate to, because it’s inevitable; I think every person has dealt with someone battling it, and I just wanted to bring that to the light,”  she said.

Rabban made sure to incorporate several elements that represent both the city of Detroit and the disease into her design.

“There’s elements such as the lion, which represents our team (Detroit Lions), but it also just represents that fury that people battling cancer have as well,” Rabban said. “And then the cleat is purple, because I learned that’s the universal color for all cancer types.”

Howard said that by partnering with KWC and using the universal color of cancer, Rabban showed her inclusivity and kindness in making sure that all people are connected and covered. “The humanity of it,” she said.

According to Howard, Rabban’s cleat caught the attention of alumni, students and staff of Southeastern High School in Detroit,  whose mascot, the Jungaleer, is essentially a purple lion.

Rabban’s cleat, which features a purple lion, was placed at the Coleman A Young International Airport, which is near the school, on the east side of Detroit. She said the cleat pleased many of the alumni and students of that school.

“I’ve had so many conversations with people that have gone to that school, where they are the Southeastern Jungaleers, which is essentially a purple lion, and they’re just talking and they’re just  fanning and fawning over it,” said Howard. “It’s just one of those things where some people are creating because they have a cause in mind and an initiative in mind, and they don’t know how it relates to other people. So with her cleat, specifically, it’s connected, because a lot of my family members actually went to Southeastern, and you know that’s something Juliana probably doesn’t even know what a Jungaleer is. I know she does now, but it’s just, like, the connections that can be made to these cleats and the stories that come from them.”

The starting bid for each cleat was $2,500, capped at $10,000. Rabban’s  cleat sold for the max bid April 29, four days before bidding ended.

“It’s been a very exciting week,” said Rabban.

Rabban is the owner of Just by Juliana, an online business where she sells her artwork, and she has been commissioned to do several murals at local businesses across metro Detroit. Ironically, Rabban is most known for painting custom sneakers. She said she posted a video of herself painting a pair of sneakers, and it went viral on TikTok, with almost 2 million views, and her business has just grown from there.

“That’s actually one of the other reasons why I was interested (in the project), is because I am super into sneakers. I was like, ‘Oh, my God! I have to do this,’” said Rabban.

Rabban said she has always had a passion for art, but she didn’t take a lot of art classes in high school as she was an AP student. So she took an art class whenever she got a chance.  Rabban credits her mom with encouraging her to make a career of art.

“She just always had a gift with art. I don’t know what it was — that was just always her passion,” said Jenny Rabban, Juliana’s mother.

Jenny Rabban said that so many kids go off to college and hate their career choice and then go into something else. She said she encouraged her daughter to go into art as she wanted her daughter to love what she was doing when she got out of college.

“Believe it or not, artists make a great living. They really do,” said Jenny Rabban. “They’re pursuing her, to reach out for her. She’s not having to chase anybody down for it. Which is kind of cool. She’s got calls every day coming in (with work offers). Through DM (direct messaging), through Instagram, a lot of people are reaching out to her… There’s a lot of companies that are reaching out to her. You really don’t think about it like that, but there is a place for artists, and I think it’s just about how aggressively you pursue it, but people love art. It’s unbelievable.”

Juliana Rabban was set to graduate from the Center for Creative Studies with a major in advertising design and a minor in graphic design and entrepreneurship May 9.

After graduation she  plans to focus on and continue to grow her business.

She said that this project was a great opportunity for her to build up her credibility as an artist at a young age.

“I’m just excited to see where this will take me,” she said of both the project and her career.

“I was loving that she gets to do something for the city of Detroit,” said Jenny Rabban. “It was pretty cool, though, because it was a life-size cleat. The great thing about it is that there is a cause behind it.”

To see or purchase some of Rabban’s work, visit or find her on Instagram at the same handle.