Art Meets the Gridiron: Detroit Unveils ‘DCLEATED’ Cleat Art Installation for 2024 NFL Draft

Photo: Artist Caleb Moss and friends beside his artwork, which will be located at Detroit Mariott Renaissance Center.

Detroit is bracing for an artistic touchdown with the unveiling of DCLEATED, a groundbreaking art installation designed to coincide with the 2024 NFL Draft. This innovative project, led by the City of Detroit and Detroit City Walls, in collaboration with a host of community partners, is setting the stage to celebrate both the city’s rich artistic heritage and the excitement of the NFL Draft.

This project aims to mirror the significant impact of a football ‘decleating’ through the medium of art by deploying 20 massive cleat sculptures across Detroit, each meticulously painted by local artists. These artworks are set to be auctioned post-draft, with proceeds directed to charities chosen either by City Walls or the artists themselves.

Jessica Parker, Deputy Chief Operating Officer, alongside the City Walls team, unveiled the initiative with the support of partners from the Detroit Medical Center, Visit Detroit, Detroit Lions, Detroit Sports Commission, SpaceLab Detroit, and more. This unveiling signifies the city’s effort to blend the cultural fervor of the NFL Draft with the artistic prowess of Detroit’s local talent, aiming for a widespread positive impact.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan expressed his enthusiasm for the project, stating, “Over the course of the past decade, Detroit has become known as more than the Motor City and Motown, we have become internationally known for our art scene.” He highlighted the transformative role of the City Walls program in beautifying Detroit and its strategic move to integrate art with the celebration of the NFL Draft through these unique cleat murals.

The cleats, crafted by Detroit’s Prop Art Studios and given a finishing touch by Double Jay’s Collision, were handed over to 20 artists. These artists were selected via a competitive process, each partnering with a non-profit organization that resonates with their personal or artistic ethos. The project’s open call attracted diverse talent, including Trae Isaac, who represented The Children’s Center, drawing parallels between his personal journey through art and the center’s mission to help youth overcome trauma.

“I applied for the City Walls “DCLEATED” project representing The Children’s Center (TCC) because of the correlation between me finding art as a means to psychologically and emotionally cope with the grief of losing my younger brother (age 7) and mother (age 37) to cancer between the years of 2006-2008 and the work that TCC does for the youth by sharing the process of transforming trauma into triumph through the various services and programs they offer,” said Isaac.

Nicole Wells Stallworth, CEO of The Children’s Center, voiced her excitement about the project’s potential to foster mental health awareness and improve the lives of Detroiters.

“The Children’s Center is excited to be a part of this incredible art installation throughout the City of Detroit,” said Wells Stallworth. The Children’s Center, based in Midtown, was founded in 1929 and provides evidence-based clinical therapy to children who deal with a range of mental, behavioral, and emotional health challenges or may have experienced trauma, abuse, or neglect. “We are very grateful to Trae Isaac for having selected us as beneficiaries of his creative inspiration and the auction sale of these cleats. I do not doubt that this art installation will improve quality of life outcomes for Detroiters by reducing mental health stigma and raising awareness of our agency’s mission of helping children and families shape their own futures.” 

“Along with supporting a cause that aligns with my personal passion and purpose, the opportunity to have a chance to be part of The City of Detroit’s collective effort to welcome the participants, organizers, and fans of the coming NFL Draft was something I could not miss as a personal and professional milestone,” Isaac shared. “I am truly grateful for the City of Detroit for continuing to implement visual arts into the development and evolution of our strong community, and also thankful for The Children’s Center for allowing me the chance to represent their mission and vision through my artwork on such a platform.” 

The installation, set for display throughout April, aims to immerse visitors in the city’s rich artistic culture and its philanthropic spirit. Key to the project’s logistics are Visit Detroit and the Detroit Sports Commission, who have taken the lead in securing display locations within Downtown Detroit hotels and managing the upcoming auction, thus expanding the initiative’s reach and impact.

Harriet Carter, representing Visit Detroit, lauded the DCLEATED project as a fusion of creativity, sports, and philanthropy, enriching the NFL Draft experience for both residents and visitors.

Adding to the city-wide engagement, the Detroit Lions will host one of the cleats, painted by acclaimed artist Fel’le, highlighting the synergy between the city’s artistic and sporting communities.

The auction, slated to begin in early April, will culminate in a celebratory event post-NFL Draft, managed by the Detroit Medical Center. This event will honor the artists and their chosen charities, ensuring that the proceeds from the cleat auction directly benefit local causes.

Bethany Howard, City Walls Program Manager, reflected on the project’s capacity to connect artists with the community, fostering a spirit of collaboration and shared purpose. She anticipates that the impact of these artistic endeavors will resonate well beyond the NFL Draft event.

The detailed list of artists, their chosen charities, and the locations where their cleats will be displayed encapsulates the breadth and depth of this project, highlighting the diverse causes it supports and the widespread involvement of the Detroit community.

As the cleats are set to make their debut on the streets of Detroit, the anticipation builds not just for the artistic showcase they promise but for the lasting impact they are poised to create in support of the city’s charitable organizations and their vital missions.

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