Chris Devins spent his Saturday painting a mural of Eminem in the Cass Corridor.
As he worked, the live reviews were glowing: passersby took photos and honked their horns, and folks cruising by Devins’ worksite on pedal pubs hooted and hollered and paid their respects. By the time he finished up at around 7 p.m., roughly six hours after he started, he figured he’d done a good job.
Within a day of completion, however, the mural had been defaced, tagged with 18 small bird head sketches, drawn over the six-foot-tall mug of Eminem with a Sharpie.
“I felt terrible,” Devins said Monday, calling the graffiti “disrespectful.” “I was devastated. Who would do that? That’s against the rules of street art.”
The Chicago artist was already back home when he learned of the tagging, alerted by someone who had posted the vandalized work on Instagram. But he plans to return to Detroit to fix the work at some point in the next week and a half.
“I want to restore it to its original value,” said Devins. “I would like to re-present it to the community in its unblemished form.”
To be clear, Devins was not hired or commissioned to do the Eminem mural. It’s purely a work of street art, or “tactical urbanism,” as Devins, who also has a background in urban planning, calls it.
He was in town for Labor Day weekend with his wife, Jody, whose family lives in Farmington Hills. He mapped out his Saturday to do the work and was originally eyeing another wall in the Cass Corridor when he spotted the one around the corner from the Masonic Temple at 3107 Cass, part of a building that was once home to the Charlotte Lounge.
“It was a great wall,” Devins said, noting that the site didn’t look like it would be “seeing any action” anytime soon. “It looked like it was going to sit there for a second, so I thought it could use some beautification.”
Devins, who was introduced to art at a young age through skateboarding, said he’s always been interested in the intersection of faces and places, and said the colors he was using looked really good against the wall he chose to boot.
“It really enhances that wall,” he said. “To me, it’s totally appropriate.”
He based the work on a photograph of Eminem by photographer Nitin Vadukul that depicted the rapper as the “Hellraiser” villain Pinhead, except Devins chose to leave out the pins. “I wanted to do him looking young and fresh,” he said, and he worked off a photo he had on his phone.
Nevins has done several murals of hip-hop artists in Chicago, including the late rappers Juice WRLD and King Von, the latter of which was commissioned by King Von’s management company, Empire. He was also hired to do a mural of Wyandotte Nation Chief Hen Tah in downtown Wyandotte.
The Eminem piece is reflective of his own love of hip-hop and his respect for Eminem, he said.
“I didn’t put up anything ugly. There was time and effort spent to make sure it was something people would want, and to make it relatable to the community,” he said. “It’s not just usual tagging.”