“I painted him as a monument”: Public Art as Protest in Detroit

This essay is my submission for Festival CHAT 2020. I’m very grateful to the organizers for hosting this phenomenal virtual event and giving us a way to connect and celebrate contemporary and historical archaeology in these difficult times.

Introduction

In this photo essay, I document and discuss three recent public art installations made in protest of police brutality against African Americans in Detroit, Michigan. These works of art—which range from informal yard signs to large-scale installations and commissioned works—connect Detroit to national discourse around police brutality by memorializing and honoring Black Detroiters killed by police alongside other, more recent victims of police violence elsewhere in the United States. They are often in conversation with other public memorials in the city, past and present, and they express collective grief, anger, support, exhaustion, and hope and encouragement for the future.

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