The life and death of Detroit’s Brewster Projects

March 25th, 2014 | By | No Comments »
Slits, February 2014

Slits, February 2014

My first encounter with the Brewster Projects was in June of 2012. In the middle of a sunny afternoon, the heat was relentless. The sun bleached, weed filled center circle drive stood out in harsh contrast to the dark empty windowed towers looming around in a group. On my first trip to Detroit at the time, I was too intimidated to venture any further than the ground level perimeter of the site. I had been told it was a sketchy neighborhood and that there was security. I never saw any and there were no fences, so I took pics of Flying Fortress and Nychos hitting up the bottoms of the towers.

In the summer of 2012 the European graffiti crew JBCB (Juke Box Cow Boys) were in town along with other international artists involved with the Detroit Beautification Project.

By the time I got to Detroit there were only 4 remaining of the big, 15-story towers. There used to be 6, but 2 were torn down in 2003. The towers were called the Frederick Douglas Apartments and were built in the 40s and 50s. This was the housing project where singer Diana Ross grew up and where, in the rec center, boxer Joe Lewis trained. The projects are right across the freeway from Ford Field and downtown Detroit. There were other low rise apartment houses there too, but they have been removed in pieces over the years.

Juke Box Coy Boys

Juke Box Coy Boys, June 2012


Nychos, June 2012

rem and ff

Nychos and Flying Fortress, June 2012

Flying Fortress and Nychos

Flying Fortress and Nychos, June 2012

Nychos and Flying Fortress

Nychos and Flying Fortress, June 2012

I moved to the Detroit area in the fall of 2013 and made it back to the Brewster towers in October of 2013 determined to check out the inside. On that trip I made it to the top of one tower. In the 15 months since I’d last been there, tons of graffiti had been added to the towers. The bottoms were now grilled with tags, throws and pieces. More noticeably, 3 epic 15-story top to bottom rollers had been executed. In addition, Gats, Feral Child, and Ghost Owl had done rollers at the top of another tower, prominently placed and visible to highway traffic heading south into downtown Detroit. As I climbed I noticed preparations for demolition, but didn’t pay a lot of attention to it. There had been ongoing delays and interruptions in the effort to complete the removal of the projects.

Aerub, October 2013

Aerub, October 2013

Feral, Gats, Ghost Owl and more, October 2013.

Feral Child, Gats, Ghost Owl and more, October 2013

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Brian Knowles on the hunt for The Reader in Oregon

October 16th, 2013 | By | 1 Comment »

Editor’s note: Earlier this year, Brian Knowles reached out to me in response to Ryan Seslow’s post about teaching a class on street art and graffiti. Brian also teaches about street art and graffiti at the university level. As it turned out, I knew Brian’s Instagram account and his flickr and he always seems to be catching great work that I don’t see elsewhere, so I asked Brian if maybe he would like to do a guest post highlighting street art and graffiti in Oregon. Of course, what I was really hoping for was a post about The Reader/Read More Books/Boans…, but I figured I’d give Brian the freedom to do whatever he wanted. He responded that he would love to do a post about The Reader’s work in Oregon, so that turned out perfectly. The Reader is one of my favorite street artists/graffiti writers/whatever working outdoors, so I couldn’t be happier for Brian to let us publish some of his photos of The Reader’s work in Eugene and Springfield, Oregon. – RJ Rushmore

Eugene and adjacent Springfield, Oregon straddle the main rail line and Interstate 5. Two hours south of Portland, it’s the last big stop before San Francisco. It’s a good resting place for travelers heading north or south. The graffiti artist Read More Books has been a frequent visitor, as evidenced by the number of his pieces in the area. I’ve been documenting graffiti and street art here for the last 5 years. Every year a few new pieces appear as Reader passes through. None are ever legal, yet they seem like they were always supposed to exist in that spot.

For me, Read More’s style has a timeless quality. His work feels like it could have existed for decades, and his skulls and books give his admonishments to ‘Read up!’ and ‘Read More’ an apocalyptic flavor.

Below is the classic Reader throwy of the open book. Here inverted black on white and white on black. These are from 2011.There used to be trees between the books, hence the spacing. Here is an earlier photo.

The black and white book below is from the end of this summer, and the double books on the semi are also 2013. There’s a shot from its original location, and then one from its new home behind a fence with other trailers. Whomever moved it to the new location did Reader a solid and made the rear book visible from a major street. The colored triangle shapes are actually by one of Reader’s friends.

book by river up close copy

double book on semi now moved copy

Higher than the rest, this Boans roller is all that’s left of a combo roller piece that Reader featured in his Label 228 zine. I never managed to see the wall before it had been dissed. The current graffiti underneath is better than the original diss, but not of the quality of that original epic piece. Here is a scan of that zine page.

Just down the tracks from that roller is “The Rapture”, a massively long spelling of the words with a still unfinished OYE drawn out in yellow lines at the far end. It’s visible from a local park and appeared around the time of those ‘end of the world/rapture’ predictions. Here is an earlier photo.

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