Home Detroit Local News That Matters Detroit City Council Rejects Payment to International Artists for Downtown Murals

Detroit City Council Rejects Payment to International Artists for Downtown Murals

Detroit City Council Rejects Payment to International Artists for Downtown Murals

The Detroit City Council is against a $215,000 deal to paint six murals in the city to make downtown look better before the NFL draft this spring. They say they never approved the deal, even though the paintings have already been painted.

On Tuesday, members of the Detroit City Council questioned Planning Director Antoine Bryant about getting a deal for six murals with city money without their permission. Since the job is done, the council is not going to pay for it anymore.

There were nine people on the council, and they decided not to accept the Street Art Mankind Corp.’s offer of $215,000 for murals on the outside of the building. This was to pay for work that had already been done, even though the city’s top lawyer told them the artists could sue for more money in legal fees.

Bryant said he was sorry and that the company had started working without getting permission from the city. “And they continued to work after being told not to continue and then finished the work within a span of eight or nine days,” said Bryant.

Bryant said that the murals were commissioned to be painted on the outside of privately owned “donated” downtown buildings. They were meant to be finished before the NFL Draft in late April to improve the look of the city, and the city started the project with the help of private partners. The money was asked for, though, from the city’s planning department fund after the work was done.

“The work began and finished prior to any engagement or approval from the city,” said Bryant. “I directly disagree with the story that bad things are happening. I’ve brought a number of contracts and other issues to the council’s attention both in committee and as a whole, and I plan to keep doing so.

Before the NFL Draft, Street Art for Mankind announced that it would be working with the city of Detroit to make a huge “Be The Change” art walk with inspiring paintings to welcome people downtown. Based on the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, the six murals “celebrate humanity’s shared values and Detroiters’ resilience.” As the website for the project says, “it is a reminder that anyone can be the change.”

Tuesday, it was impossible to get in touch with the foreign art group. “The city has to pay a bill that the council didn’t agree to, and we are, to say the least, very upset,” said Councilman Fred Durhal III. “It sounds like a confused understanding of who initiated the work.”

Detroit City Council Rejects Payment to International Artists for Downtown Murals

The city’s top lawyer, Conrad Mallett Jr., told the artists that they could sue the city in Wayne County Circuit Court if they thought they were acting in good faith. The city would have to defend itself in court.

“In the end, the judge would tell us to come to an agreement of some kind.” The city of Detroit would not try to make payment, though, unless the City Council gave its permission, Mallett told the council. He said that he doesn’t believe there are any punitive damages and that court settlements would be at least as much as the $215,000 deal.

“In this particular case, the planning department, along with the Visitors Bureau, the Downtown Partnership, Sports Authority and Economic Growth Corporation, all the entities involved in bringing the NFL Draft to the city of Detroit collectively made a determination that enhancing the physical circumstances that of the downtown area particularly would be in everyone’s interest,” said Mallett.

What Mallett said was that the City Council’s “lack of consideration was consequential.” The president of the city council, Mary Sheffield, said that the council couldn’t use general funds to fix homes, clean out basements, or give loans because of the Michigan Constitution.

“I love the 2024 Draft and I think it’s great for the city, but I just think it’s unfortunate that all of those entities you just mentioned came together and said that this was a great use of public funds, but when it comes to keeping people in their homes, that was not an option for public use funds which is very upsetting to hear,” Sheffield said to Mallett.

Angela Whitfield-Calloway, a councilmember, asked where the artists were from and who met with them to choose the big paintings. Not only that, but she also said that two of the houses with murals are owned by Ilitched. Waite-Calloway said, “Let’s send them the bill.” Bryant told the council that he signed the contract when the job was done and then took it to the council. Artists were asked to send work beginning a year ago, “but they were never given the thumbs up,” he said.

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