Detroit graffiti writer and mural artist Sintex, above, is being excluded as a Grand River Creative Corridor participant and arts incubator resident. (Photo by Phil Brown)
Derek Weaver, a Detroit real estate executive who started the Grand River Creative Corridor project two summers ago, comments Tuesday night for the first time on last week's abrupt painting-over of a mural his group commissioned in the west-side neighborhood.
"The defacing of the recent Vincent Chin mural saddens all of us," Weaver posts at the start of a lengthy statement on his group's Facebook page. He calls the action "an indicator that the community in Detroit has some work to do," adding:.
It shows that the “No Fly Zone” mentality still exists today and hinders the growth and the resurgence of the great city of Detroit. Our sincerest apologies to Vincent Chin, his family, the Asian American Center for Justice, and Gaia [Baltimore artist Andrew Pisacane].
We are happy we were able to provide the local community dialogue and enlightenment on the death of Vincent Chin during the short time the mural was up. We look forward to creating many more beautiful murals that help the community move forward.
The mural, painted June 19-23 at Weaver's invitation as a tribute to the 1982 local hate crime victim, was "buffed" (covered) last Thursday by a Detroit artist calling himself Sintex.
In a detailed chronology of events, Weaver says Sintex met the visiting artist and said he was comfortable with a new mural on a commercial building's wall he decorated several years ago:
All of the GRCC walls rotate artists every 1-3 years. Several other walls have been successfully rotated without any conflict. Gaia explained his mural concept and Sintex gave his blessing by saying: "I've had my mural on the wall for a couple years now and now it's yours."
Since he covered the Chin mural Thursday, Weaver adds, "several claims and threats have been made by Sintex via Facebook, Instagram, in person and phone text. . . . He made several mentions that it was his wall and Detroit is a 'No Fly Zone' and Gaia never had the right to paint it."
In response, Weaver is severing all ties with Sintex, who was part of the 4731 Arts Incubator, a gallery, workshop and residential lofts building on Grand River.
The Grand River Creative Corridor and the 4731 Arts Incubator will no longer support Sintex financially or personally, his art, housing or work space. . . .
Sintex was one of the lead artists in the early age of the GRCC and painted 4 or 5 murals. Sintex was provided a 6,000-square-foot loft free of charge for 2 years. Recently, the City of Detroit inspected the loft and deemed it unsafe and uninhabitable for residential use. Sintex was given notice in May of 2014 that his occupancy would be ending. Sintex has made no indications of moving out of the loft.
In other words, stay tuned for more melodrama in the odd saga of art, antagonism and community identity.
Monday afternoon article:
Young Baltimore painter Andrew Pisacane, a self-described "street artist" who uses the name Gaia, may be the Rick Ross of Detroit wall murals -- blocked by a local cultural defender from presenting his work here.
Ross, a Miami rapper who came to perform at Chene Park on the first day of summer, couldn't reach the venue because local rapper Trick Trick and supporters stood in front of his bus. "Until the June 21 incident," Darren Nichols wrote in The Detroit News, "few outside the city’s hip-hop community knew about the so-called 'No Fly Zone,' making Detroit an area where artists are not permitted to perform without including members of the local hip-hop scene."
Now Pisacane accuses a Detroit muralist who calls himself Sintex of similar exclusion by painting over a recent wall display (above) memorializing 1982 local hate crime victim Vincent Chin. Piscane says online that he painted the outside tribute in June at Grand River Avenue and Rosa Parks Boulevard with an OK from the commercial building owner's and an invitation from the Grand River Creative Corridor project.
Here's part of what the original artist says on his Facebook page in a post that has 75 comments, including a few from Sintex:
There is question of whether it is ethical to come as an outsider and paint about a locale, and whose permission you must seek in order to do so. In this instance local artists are unfairly pitted against international artists.
For some it is simply not enough to talk to the property owner or even the community association. And especially in Detroit, the concept of the "no fly zone," propagated by some, is particularly strong in its opposition to foreigners coming to paint here.
Personally, as someone who travels so frequently, I cannot help but find this sentiment disturbing.
Two months earlier, posting a shot of the black, white and gray work in progress on Instagram, Pisacane described it as "a memorial to #VincentChin who passed in 1982 in an altercation that possessed attributes of a hate crime and whose perpetrators who were given lenient sentencing in a plea bargain. Always dreamt of creating this piece, thankful to be able to finally produce it."
Pisacane, a 2011 graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art, has had solo exhibits in London, Chicago, San Francisco, Brooklyn and Washington, D.C., according to his website.
In one of his reply comments, Sintex tells the Maryland muralist (capitalization added):
You were trying to be controversial but you don't understand what u painted, I don't think. The people in the community hated your piece bro. . . . It had no connection with the people. Plus you were not supposed to paint there period.
That claim and the repainting are challenged by Allessandro Echevaria, a 30-year-old Italian artist living and working in Brooklyn. He comments on the social media thread:
#LOCALSONLY seems kind of closed minded and petty. . . . Art should be democratic and accessible. To make art about . . . subcultural code and alienate a large part of the population is as bad in the graffiti world as I find it to be in the mainstream contemporary art world.
Another artist, a Rochester, N.Y., native posting as "Cruk Fua," sides with Sixtex and adds perspective on the "no fly zone" issue (punctuation and capitalization added):
When it comes to going over locals' work, that's what happens. It's not the first time I seen this. It happened in Miami. Graff culture is cruel. . . but the people you paint over didn't buy their way into the scene.
I understand that is not your fault. You're a traveling artist. It's what you do. But . . . that really seemed to be a wall that was already established and that' home for the artist involved. As the mural art trend is getting bigger in many cities, those boundaries need to be respected. . . .
You can't just buff out people's work, especially when you're not even part of the community. I'm sorry but those are the rules.
The Facebook discussion leads Pisacane to acknowledge that the space he painted "was his [Sintex's] wall for three years" and that "in retrospect, [it] shouldn't have gotten painted in spite of there being an agreement that originally it was alright to do so."
For its part, the Grand River Creative Corridor group feels no urgency to comment. "We will release a statement regarding this incident within the next couple weeks," it posts on Facebook..
Related coverage at Deadline Detroit: