Aydian, Verity and Avery are members of the Boys and Girls Club in Detroit. The family members each created a mural for the Detroit Grand Prix, with Verity’s piece selected to be displayed along the racetrack. (Photo by Quinn Banks)

When sisters Avery and Aydian and their cousin Verity learned earlier this year that they were taking on a mural project for the Boys and Girls Club of Southeastern Michigan, they felt clueless. 

They didn’t know how to use the design program Adobe Illustrator and had little experience with creating art. 

“I can do a mean Paint by Numbers, but drawing was something that I never actually wanted to do,” Avery, 16, told BridgeDetroit. “That was something totally new and then adding a whole digital point, it was…it was hard.” 

But over six weeks, the trio slowly began learning the app and creating their own digital murals. Seven of the murals from the program, including Verity’s, were selected to be displayed around the racetrack for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear. 

The event, which begins Friday and concludes Sunday, marks a return to the streets of downtown Detroit from its longtime location on Belle Isle for the first time in 32 years. Event organizers say the move will make the races more accessible for Detroiters.

The murals will be placed on the safety walls surrounding the race circuit in front of the viewing platforms on Jefferson Avenue, which will be open to fans for free all weekend, according to the Grand Prix. The organization’s partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Southeast Michigan (BGCSM), is part of its Community Partnership Initiative, which works to create opportunities for small businesses, highlight the work of local artists and build a presence in Detroit neighborhoods leading up to the event and beyond. 

“Thanks to our key community partners, these talented and creative young students at the Boys and Girls Club of Southeastern Michigan will have the opportunity to share their art with everyone at this year’s Grand Prix,” Michael Montri, president of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, said this month in a news release. ”We’re excited to see all of these unique designs come to life and create a special connection to the neighborhoods and districts across Detroit, through the Grand Prix.”

From conception to finished product

The idea for youth-designed murals at the Grand Prix came from the Penske Corporation, one of the partners for the event, BGCSM Chief Program Officer Alise Dixon told BridgeDetroit. A Penske representative saw previous work from the organization and thought the murals could be a creative way to represent the city. 

“So the thought was to commission some of our local club youth to actually learn how to create digital designs, have their (the Grand Prix) advisory board select which design they thought were the best, and then those youth were actually paid for their artwork to go up as digital murals that are going to line the track at the Grand Prix,” Dixon said.

Boys & Girls Club of Southeastern Michigan Chief Program Officer Alise Dixon smiles during a BridgeDetroit interview at the Lloyd H. Diehl. Club May 31, 2023 (Photo by Quinn Banks)

Fifteen children and teens from the organization’s Fashion Industry Club participated in the project. Meeting twice a week at the Fauver-Martin Club in Highland Park, Detroit artist and fashion designer Sharryl Cross taught the budding artists how to use Illustrator as well as the fundamentals of digital art and the history of the Grand Prix. Dixon said all participants received a $250 stipend to take part in the six-week program. 

But that didn’t mean the program was smooth sailing. For Avery, Aydian and Verity, it was hard even coming up with a concept for the mural. 

“Coming up with an idea was probably the hardest thing,” Avery said. “I did not know what I wanted to do.” 

“Making up an idea took me a couple of weeks,” added Aydian, 15. “My idea changed like, three times.” 

Meanwhile, Verity, also 16, had three different designs going throughout the program because she couldn’t decide which one was best. 

“I changed my whole design in the last week,” she said.

The result of Verity’s design was a racetrack featuring a large tire with the Old English D in the center. Landmarks like the Spirit of Detroit and the Renaissance Center appear in the background. At the bottom of the murals is a green race car with a driver in the seat.  A raised fist representing Black Lives Matter sits on the side of the car. 

Aydian also thought about landmarks for her mural, which featured the Spirit of Detroit and The Fist. But the places are not visible in the mural since they come from the perspective of being inside a car, she said. Red, white, black and gold colors make up Aydian’s mural as well as flags with the Chevrolet logo. 

Avery said she thought about Detroit-centric food and drinks for her mural, like Better Made chips and Faygo. She also featured club locations like Fauver-Martin and Lloyd H. Diehl. 

“I feel like the Boys and Girls Clubs really impact how the youth are brought up in Detroit,” Avery said. 

Verity said the program taught her that not everything will be set in stone and that changes will arise, such as her designs. Avery learned to persevere. 

“I’m happy I got it done and didn’t give up in the middle,” she said. 

Editor’s note: The last names of the teens interviewed for this story were withheld by the Boys and Girls Club because they are minors.

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