City Walls unveils ‘DCleated’ art project ahead of NFL Draft

click to enlarge The oversized cleats will be displayed near Detroit arenas, hotels, and airports for the month of April. - Randiah Camille Green

Randiah Camille Green

The oversized cleats will be displayed near Detroit arenas, hotels, and airports for the month of April.

People headed to downtown Detroit for the NFL Draft this April will notice oversized cleats painted with flowers, football players, and vibrant nature scenes dotting the downtown area.

These are part of the City Walls “DCleated” art initiative in anticipation of the NFL Draft. Twenty artists were selected to paint the huge cleats fabricated by Prop Art Studios and each artist chose a nonprofit organization to represent.

The cleats will be displayed at places like Ford Field, Little Caesars Arena, the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, Detroit Metro Airport, City Airport, and hotels in the downtown area for the month of April.

In May, they will be auctioned off at an event at the Godfrey Hotel with proceeds benefiting the artist’s chosen organization or charity.

Detroit artist Trae Isaac, who has done several City Walls murals, painted his cleat to mimic stained glass with cartoon kids playing football and children’s handprints at the bottom. He chose The Children’s Center as his nonprofit.

“When I was 16 and I was 18, my baby brother and my mother passed away from cancer,” he tells Metro Times. “They had the exact same type of cancer, Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 7. It’s a neurological type of cancer, and it’s generational as well. Since the age of 18, I’ve been tested for it and still they do testing for it. Prior to that, I used to box for almost a decade. So when they passed it was a huge sit down moment in my life that kind of transformed me.”

He says he wants his cleat to represent transforming “trauma into triumph.”

“For me to lose my mom and brother to go to doing what it is that I’m doing today, I’m very grateful,” he says. “I realized, I’m here to serve other people.”

click to enlarge Trae Isaac painted his cleat in support of The Children's Center. - Randiah Camille Green

Randiah Camille Green

Trae Isaac painted his cleat in support of The Children’s Center.

The artists, nonprofits, and city officials gathered on Thursday afternoon to unveil the cleats to the media before they headed off to their respective locations.

The Children’s Center CEO Nicole Wells Stallworth thanked Isaac for his installation and for sharing his story at the press conference.

“Trae’s powerful art installation, as he pointed out, reflects his own journey overcoming trauma. It is my hope that this piece will serve as a catalyst for erasing stigma about speaking up and addressing the necessary mental health treatment that anyone may need,” she said. “The Children’s Center is truly grateful to be part of an important cause, to celebrate not only the diversity of the artists that we have in our city of Detroit but also the diversity of the children and youth in our communities.”

The “smile man” himself, Phil Simpson, was also one of the participating artists. He painted his signature smile man in an outdoor scene with a bright blue sky and sports gear like a football and basketball. Proceeds from the sale of his cleat will go to Project Play, an organization that promotes an active lifestyle through sports programming for children.

“As a father of a thriving, energetic young lady who plays soccer, who does gymnastics [and] is interested in flag football, it’s an honor to paint this cleat here for Project Play,” Simpson said at the press conference. “In our household, we advocate for education, sports, and reading.”

Tony Whlgn (pronounced hooligan) decorated a bright orange cleat with food items and the phrase “everybody eats” in his pop art style for Gleaners Community Food Bank. It will be placed outside Wayne County Airport.

The NFL Draft is taking place mostly around Campus Martius and Hart Plaza from April 25-27. The “NFL Draft Experience” is free to attend with registration and includes a slew of concerts, games, an interactive exhibit, chances to get autographs from current and past NFL players, and more.

DCleated is a partnership between the City Walls program, Visit Detroit, DMC, and SpaceLab Detroit.

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