London-based public artist Richard Wilson is creating an 8,000-square-foot mural of Stevie Wonder on the south wall of Detroit’s Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts. The mural will reach the very top of the stage house at more than 100 feet high.
Wilson’s large-scale murals have been integrated into several urban communities across the U.S. and Europe.
Wilson says he likes “to paint people that inspire me and art that tells a story, and in particular to be able to paint big walls when I can, where I can paint something that can really connect to the community around it.”
His work focuses on portraiture and creating tributes to arts and cultural icons who are connected to the settings in which the murals are created.
He has completed portraits of Will Smith in West Philadelphia, Cristiano Ronaldo in Portugal, and Roy Ayes in London.
Wilson approached Vince Paul, president of Music Hall, in 2018 during Eastern Market’s Murals in the Market event.
“Music Hall has been committed to performing arts education for decades, bringing lessons in music, theater, and dance to Detroit’s students year-in and year-out,” says Paul. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to highlight this work and its importance in Detroit.”
London nonprofit Education is Not a Crime has commissioned a second mural on Music Hall’s west wall depicting the inside of the hall. The nonprofit employs street art to highlight that access to education is not guaranteed for all children, with complications relating to socioeconomic status, politics, and more. The nonprofit’s work is primarily inspired by the denial of education to the Baha’i religious minority in Iran.
Wilson took on the Stevie Wonder mural at his own expense. Integrity Building Group principals Brian Mooney and John Biggar donated materials and labor to prepare the walls.