Artist Cheryl Phillips’ work features elements that highlight the culture of Mexicantown in southwest Detroit. Her exhibit, “On the Street Where I Live,” will be shown in Farmington Hills City Hall’s Rotating Exhibits Gallery, 31555 W. 11 Mile Road.

Artist Cheryl Phillips’ work features elements that highlight the culture of Mexicantown in southwest Detroit. Her exhibit, “On the Street Where I Live,” will be shown in Farmington Hills City Hall’s Rotating Exhibits Gallery, 31555 W. 11 Mile Road.

Photo provided by the city of Farmington Hills


Public Art Program encourages creativity in City Hall

By: Sherri Kolade | C&G Newspapers | Published July 31, 2018

 An oil painting by Phillips of a house on Hubbard Street features statues and potted plants.

An oil painting by Phillips of a house on Hubbard Street features statues and potted plants.

Photo provided by the city of Farmington Hills

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FARMINGTON HILLS/DETROIT — The array of resplendent and mystical, century-old houses that dot the streets of Hubbard Farms in southwest Detroit, aka Mexicantown, take on new life through one woman’s eyes. 

Artist Cheryl M. Phillips, of southwest Detroit, took on her town’s unique architectural structures in her exhibit, “On the Street Where I Live,” shown at Farmington Hills City Hall’s Rotating Exhibits Gallery, 31555 W. 11 Mile Road.

The exhibit, running through Aug. 10, delves into the multimedia artist’s work.

According to a press release, the paintings showcase the essence of the cultural character of the neighborhood through its flowers, statues and bold colors. 

Phillips said in a phone interview that those elements are rooted in more than the landscape. 

“Because I live in Mexicantown, a lot of the part of the culture of the Mexican people is a lot of flowers, a lot of lawn ornaments,” she said. “They have a real deep devotion to (St.) Mary, and so many of them have many statues of Mary, and she is probably noticed in the paintings.”

Phillips took pictures of houses “that had a lot of things going on in the front lawn” and turned them into oil paintings on a canvas.

“Color is a real big thing with the culture. A lot of their lawn chairs are painted real bright teal, and then they’ll have an orange table, lots of flowers,” she said of her neighbors.

She described the “gorgeous,” colorful houses, some peppered with hanging baskets across the front porch, some with lawn ornaments and other adornments. 

“I was just really attracted to that.”

Phillips said that she was working and living on the other side of Detroit when she was invited to the neighborhood by a friend and fell in love with the personality of the place.

“By doing this series on the gorgeous old houses, I hope to preserve the memory of that area,” she said in a press release. She has exhibited widely at a number of venues throughout Michigan.

Phillips attended Mercy High School and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Detroit Mercy and a dual master’s degree in art education and art therapy from Eastern Michigan University, the release states. 

Phillips is part of the city’s Public Art Program, featuring art from 74 artists from Farmington, Farmington Hills and surrounding communities, the release states. Their artwork is on loan and is displayed at City Hall through the end of 2018. The works showcase a variety of mediums, including clay, metal, fiber, paint, glass and photography, according to the release.

Karla Aren, the city’s cultural arts programmer and who hung the exhibit, said that Detroit is a “unique place to be right now.”

“Cheryl Phillips has the foresight to know that places change, and this moment in Detroit’s history is special. As the city evolves, it’s important to notice the details; chickens, saints and pretty porches are part of it all,” she said.

Rachel Timlin, the cultural arts supervisor for the Farmington Hills Special Services Department’s Cultural Arts Division, said in an email that the Public Art Program was created in 2010 to enhance the then-newly renovated Farmington Hills City Hall. Artists who are juried into the program loan their work to the city for a period of two years, she said.

“During the two-year duration of the program, there are on-site events which coincide with the exhibit, providing more exposure with local art collectors and businesses,” she said. “Artists in the program have the opportunity to apply for a solo or small group show in the Rotating Exhibits Gallery, also inside City Hall.”

The 2017-18 program opened in January 2017 and closes in November.

“We take the month of December to prepare the next exhibit, and then we open the 2019-2020 program in January,” Timlin said. “The goal is to give the artists more opportunities to show (and hopefully sell) their work.”

Timlin added that City Hall is larger and can display more work than many local galleries.

“So I consider it more like a mini museum,” she said in an email. “Bringing art into a public building like City Hall invigorates the space by generating conversation and cultivating inspiration. Over 60,000 visitors — including residents, visitors, business owners, city employees and elected officials — enjoy the artwork at City Hall each year. We know that art has the power to transform and elevate spaces for the better, and we are thankful for all the artists who contribute by loaning their work to this program.”

Timlin added that when artwork is taken down at the end of a program, there is a one- to two-week period when the walls at City Hall are empty, and they hear a lot of comments from City Hall employees wondering where the art went.

“If we don’t have art in our lives, we are indeed robbed of so much,” she said.

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