“I am just getting started,” is something Southwest Detroit’s Freddy Diaz has been saying for years. The 24 year old artist whose latest work can be seen on the side of La Posada Market on Springwells in Southwest Detroit, has a well rounded vision and has paved the way for his successes all the while remembering and highlighting obstacles along the way. Diaz’s work extends outside of himself as he explained to us the economic, cultural, and educational impact of his art.
At eleven years old, Diaz rode his bike all over Detroit. He would search for larger than life murals and to soak up the rich graffiti culture the city is steeped in-all before his parents returned home from work. “I would get into stuff I wasn’t supposed to, all through the alleys…I would wake up early and go to the Dequindre Cut, the train station, the Packard Plant…just to see people’s art.”
The new mural is inspired by an old community piece that used to be across from Phoenix Academy, “It was a community mural that spelled out Southwest Detroit, it was a main landmark.” That mural ended being covered and eventually the building was demolished. The mural is a combination of Freddy’s style incorporated with themes and concepts that capture the spirit of Southwest Detroit, “I always like to think of the community in general…what would be good for us.”
Diaz walked us through each aspect of the mural and the meaning behind the images. A depiction of the Michigan Central Station is a prominent aspect of the mural and Diaz has depicted it from the perspective of someone standing on Vernor Highway looking north. The train station is an important part of Diaz’s personal and professional life. It was a spot he visited as a child and where he met his idol, mentor, and friend, Jordan Tead Vaughn. “Jordan passed away a few months ago, so I wanted to do a tribute to him.” The center of the piece is a rendering of the Sacred Heart, and is a representation of the strong Catholic community in Southwest Detroit. The right side of the mural is a portrayal of a group of kids playing in the water of a fire hydrant, something Diaz experienced as a child.
After the completion of a piece, Diaz is humbled by reflecting on the past and how far he has come and the importance of his art in the community. He acknowledges that when he was a child, he would look up to murals like the ones he is painting today. He hopes that his work will inspire kids in Detroit to explore and share their talents, in spite of obstacles that are in the way. “I want people to understand it’s not easy…it is important and normal to fail and it takes consistency and patience to succeed.” There is also a correlation between Diaz’s work and economic impact. Diaz stated “It makes the community proud, I love to see businesses taking pride in what they have…it brings value.”
Freddy will spend the next few months in Columbia where he will be collaborating with local artists and displaying his Southwest style stating “I need to explore the world to Southwest Detroit.”