Friday, May 22, 2015

An Afternoon with Shepard Fairey

Yesterday afternoon we had the privilege of interviewing Shepard Fairey about his recent 9 day residency in Detroit, a stay that will culminate with the opening of his latest exhibit at the Library Street Collective tonight. Shepard was hired by Rock Financial/Quicken Loans to come to Detroit to create his largest mural to date along with a few smaller works throughout the city.

We were invited to the alley commonly refereed to as "The Belt" to witness Mr. Fairey hosting a question and answer session with students from The Detroit School of Art before taking questions from the press. The kids were all given black and white versions of the mural that SF painted in the alley to color while he talked. While the students colored they asked the street artist about his creations and his career. They were very interested in his creation of the Obama "Hope" poster and how he comes up with new things and keeps going. His answers were more than refreshing. He compared being a street artist to being a hip hop artist in the sense that they are both competitive and a little bit rebellious in nature. The kids seemed to enjoy their time with Shepard, many of them even approached him at the end and asked him to sign everything from their drawings to their sweatshirts and he happily obliged.
After finishing up with the kids he took questions from the press. I was really impressed by the man behind OBEY. I wore an Obey t-shirt for way too long in high school and was a fan of OBEY for years before he ever broke into the main stream. It was interesting to hear him talk about his rise to "fame". He talked about how and why he creates each of his murals and why he chose Detroit. He stated that he has wanted to work with the Library Street Collective for years, but the timing never lined up. He was asked by the collective what it would take to get him here to work on something and his answer was, "a wall that I cant pass up." That's when he was offered his largest project to date, the 184' wall on the side of One Campus Martius. He has been working on the mural with a team of three other people. He even joked that he can't believe that he is at a place in his career that he can hire people to work with him. For years it was just him out there on his own. He talked very fondly of the city of Detroit and what he loves about being here. He feels that Detroit is a place that has incorporated art deeper into itself than most other cities. Even our bars and restaurants have an artistic authentic feel to them, no one is the same. He gave shouts out to a few local artists that he appreciates, including Revok (who previous lived here) and Shades. We also couldn't resist asking if he has ever fallen during one of his late night adventures scaling a billboard. He said that it has happened many times, but luckily only from 15 to 20 feet in the air, nothing high enough that it hurt more than his back.  
My favorite point that he made during the afternoon was that he stays true to himself. He pointed out that he gets criticized by the corporations for being too street and by the street kids for being too corporate. He doesn't really care much about what people think as long as they are talking and hopefully enjoying his art. He was an inspiring artist who made me want to go home and create. I think the most amazing thing about him was when I saw his hands, the hands of a true artist. I think I creeped him out a little when I asked him if I could take a picture, but I personally think those hands were one of the most amazing sets I have ever seen. They work hard, they create beautiful things, and they just made the landscape of the city that I love a lot more beautiful.

Cheers to My. Fairey for spending time here and shedding a bright positive light on the artistic community of Detroit. Do not miss his latest show called "Printed Matters" opening tonight at the Library Street Collective at 6 p.m. The show will run through August 15th, 2015, but don't wait! Get out there and see this for yourselves now! 


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