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Grand River Creative Corridor

4731 Grand River Avenue
Detroit, Michigan 48208


By MJ Galbraith
August 1, 2014

It's amazing what a little paint can do. Just search for the graffiti of Detroit's Brian Glass, a.k.a. "Sintex." His photo-realistic portraits and murals defy what seems reasonable coming from a humble can of spray paint. These are portraits possible by way of brushes, sure—but spray paint? Perhaps most recognizable are his portraits of Native Americans and other indigenous peoples, a favorite theme of his. For Sintex, they represent a warrior attitude: a tenacious, powerful, and inspiring will to survive.
It's amazing what a little paint can do, too, for a community. The Grand River Creative Corridor, which Sintex co-founded with Derek Weaver, has transformed the stretch of Grand River Ave. between Rosa Parks Blvd. and Warren Ave. In just a few short years, the GRCC has used graffiti to turn a street pockmarked with empty lots and abandoned buildings into something positive. Murals cover the buildings from top to bottom, providing a jolt of creativity that redefines an area once dominated by blight. Sintex calls it a sort of imaginary playground, one where kids can walk down the street and lose themselves in the colorful murals rather than the derelict buildings.
“I've seen it affect the community. Travelers from far and wide come and take pictures. There's definitely walk-through traffic. People ride bikes here now. There's something to see. People have bought property within the community, based around the art, which I find intriguing. Real estate value is increasing,” says Sintex. “For me, it's giving inspiration to a community that has a lot of blight.”
Sintex was inspired by art at an early age. Growing up on the west side of Detroit, he got lost in the pages of comic books and the cartoons on TV. He started making his own comic books around age eleven. Soon, he was picking up graffiti magazines and books. His teachers at Crockett Technical High School recognized his skills and began prepping him for art school. During that same time, he began exploring Detroit's graffiti scene. A chance encounter with the well-established graffiti artist Fel3000Ft led to a sort of mentorship for the young Sintex.
Receiving scholarship offers from three different art schools, Sintex left Detroit for New York's Pratt Institute. With the events of September 11, 2001 putting that city on hold, Sintex eventually returned to Detroit to attend the College for Creative Studies. Since then, he has established himself as one of the city's most well known artists—and not just in the graffiti arts. During the winter months, Sintex works with any number of mediums, including 3D animation, illustration, graphic design, and merchandising. He currently has a production deal to develop a collectible toy of legendary Detroit hip hop producer J Dilla.
“I'm inspired by life events, good or bad, controversial or not controversial,” says Sintex. “I want powerful artwork. Everything I put up, even just a portrait—I want it to mean something.”
His success as an artist has thrust Sintex into a sort of ambassador role for the city's graffiti and street art communities. In an effort to foster a healthy graffiti scene in Detroit, he has met with the chief of police, art galleries, and artists not native to the city. It can be a battle, he says, because opportunist gallery owners and outside artists who don't understand the city can really damage the positive effects graffiti can have on a community. Sintex believes that it's important graffiti creates a dialog with the neighborhood in which someone is painting. Some people—culture vultures, he calls them—recruit outside artists that don't put the work into understanding the city and its people.
Sintex is creating an event that he hopes will bring international attention to Detroit's street art scene. It's not unlike the world-famous Art Basel in Miami Beach, an event that Sintex has been invited to for the past three years. As Sintex works to confirm a date and sponsors for the street festival, he continues planning out his vision. It's one replete with artists, vendors, and community, all coming together in the Grand River Creative Corridor.
It's amazing what a little paint can do.

All photos by Doug Coombe.

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