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Detroit Artists Bring Attention to Abandoned Buildings by Painting Them Orange

Detroit Artists Bring Attention to Abandoned Buildings by Painting Them Orange

GOOD

March 26, 2010

It began with a sign: a bright orange traffic detour sign standing next to one of Detroit’s thousands of abandoned houses. Four local artists, a group who call themselves Object Orange, realized they could use the shocking color of the sign to draw attention to the city’s pervasive urban decay. With up to 15 volunteers they staged clandestine predawn painting expeditions, covering blighted houses in buckets of “Tiggerific” orange paint. “People become blind,” says OO’s Mike, who, like other members of the group, prefers anonymity for legal reasons. “We want to make them take note.”

Out of Detroit’s more than 7,000 abandoned buildings, fewer than 2,000 are slated for destruction, leaving a long waiting list of properties that have become drug dens, prostitution hubs, and dangerous neighborhood playgrounds.Commuters have begun to notice the orange houses, as have unhappy city officials. “They may believe they are making artistic statements,” says James Canning, communications coordinator for the Mayor’s office, “but they are just trespassing and adding to the blight of the buildings.”

Eyesore or not, the orange is noticeable. Four of OO’s first 11 orange houses were almost immediately demolished. Canning attributes this to coincidence and careful calculation (demolition plans are public record); the artists see it as a critical step toward re-invigorating their deteriorating city. “Our part is starting conversations,” says OO member Jacques. “Some people do outreach. We paint houses orange.”







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