Chances to discover inventive, inspiring artwork are your fingertips in Detroit. And in many cases, whether it’s public art along paths or fine masterpieces in marble halls, it’s not all that expensive – sometimes, it’s even free. Education Detroit scouted around the city to find some of the best accessible examples of everything from the urban artwork to high-profile priceless stuff. It’s divided into indoor and outdoor destinations. Take a look, and decide where to start your family’s art adventure!
Note: Some spots have additional costs. Call ahead for the latest details.
The Detroit Beautification Project
This collective of artists from “around the globe” has splashed vibrant graffiti mural art all over buildings. Much of this colorful, comic-inspired explosion is by a collective called The Weird, featuring artists from Germany and Austria. Discover its various public street art locations via this Google Maps link.
Detroit RiverWalk & Dequindre Cut Greenway
- Address: Rivard Plaza is at 1340 E. Atwater St. Detroit; cut starts at Atwater Street between St. Aubin and Orleans streets (near Milliken State Park)
- Hours: 6 a.m.-10 p.m. daily
- Phone: 313-566-8200
The RiverWalk’s open-air “Garden Rooms” host public art sculptures by notable artists. Then, stroll down the cut to find urban graffiti murals – many legally commissioned – covering the concrete walls of this converted railroad bed.
Lincoln Street Art Park
Artists randomly “drop” pieces off here. Say hi to Frank, a huge scrap-metal dragon. At 5926 Lincoln St. in Detroit’s New Center area.
These “positive, witty and casually motivational” murals are a project of DetroitLives! One at Brush and Milwaukee streets declares, “We Kahn Do It!” – a reference to famous Detroit architect Albert Kahn, the mastermind behind the Fisher Building, Ford River Rouge Plant and Belle Isle’s conservatory.
MBAD African Bead Museum & African Bead Gallery
- Address: 6559 Grand River Ave., Detroit (near-west side)
- Hours: noon-7 p.m. Monday-Saturday museum/gallery; anytime, public art
- Phone: 313-898-3007
African art and culture comes to life at this fascinating collection of outdoor found-object public art installations – and an indoor museum featuring textile, sculptures and, of course, beads, which hold special historical significance.
Monument to Joe Louis
“The fist” has been a fixture since 1986. How does this bold public art strike your kids? It’s at Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit.
The Heidelberg Project
- Address: Heidelberg Street, primarily between Mount Elliott and Ellery streets, Detroit
- Hours: dawn-dusk, daily
- Phone: 313-974-6894
This iconic outdoor art environment in the McDougall-Hunt neighborhood was created by Tyree Guyton, who lived here as a kid. His effort to revive the blighted block has transformed houses and lots into colorful, polka dot- and plushy-covered canvases sure to capture kids’ attention and challenge traditional notions of art.
Arts & Scraps
- Address: 16135 Harper Ave., Detroit
- Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday (public hours; other times by appointment)
- Phone: 313-640-4411
Walls of buckets and boxes teem with materials just begging kids to make art – whether for class, or just for themselves. Swing by Scrap Junction, too, to create music on the “Junk Xylophone” and play with other found-object contraptions.
College for Creative Studies
- Address: two Detroit campuses: 201 E. Kirby St. and 485 W. Milwaukee St.
- Hours: various/precollege offerings; 10 a.m.-2 p.m. most second Saturdays of the month/Second Saturdays program
- Phone: 313-664-1530
This renowned art school offers programs tailored for middle/high school students interested in art and design. Precollege programs and Second Saturdays workshops (ages 8-15) options are available. Check ahead for the latest, but act fast, as classes do tend to fill up quickly.
Detroit Institute of Arts
- Address: 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit
- Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, closed Monday
- Phone: 313-833-7900
One of top six collections of fine arts in the country is right here in Detroit, and it’s more family-friendly than ever. From ancient Egypt to modern works – and, of course, one-of-a-kind icons like Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry murals – there’s a ton to explore. Watch for major touring exhibitions, and use the “Eye Spy” placards – in about half of the 100 total galleries – to spur chat with your kids.
Detroit Symphony Orchestra
- Address: Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center, 3711 Woodward Ave., Detroit
- Hours: show times vary; check ahead to see what’s playing
- Phone: 313-576-5111
Its Young People’s Family Concerts (ages 6-plus) and Tiny Tots shows (2-6 years) are incredible, kid-centric introductions to live symphony music. Both programs happen back-to-back on select Saturdays; it all kicks off with an instrument petting zoo, face painting and arts/crafts in the lobby.
Franklin-Wright Settlements, Inc.
- Address: 3360 Charlevoix St., Detroit
- Hours: vary; sessions run six to eight weeks
- Phone: 313-579-1000
This community organization gives kids ages 7-12 afterschool culture in six- to eight-week sessions that center around themes such as dance, art and karate. Call for the latest dates and details and to sign up for classes.
Live Coal Gallery
- Address: 5029 Trumbull St., Detroit
- Hours: call ahead for latest offerings
- Phone: 313-402-5274
This new-in-2013 gallery, helmed by Yvette Rock (an artist and herself mom of four young children), hosts free, ad-hoc open family workshops. Check ahead for the latest.
- Address: 8701 W. Vernor Highway, Suite 301, Detroit
- Hours: call for program information
- Phone: 313-841-4765
Family art workshops for all ages are 9:30-11:30 a.m. Saturdays (follows DPS calendar) at Mexicantown Mercado locale. Parents must be with kids under 7. Center also offers other dance/art programs for children and all ages; check ahead.
Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit
- Address: 4454 Woodward Ave., Midtown Detroit
- Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday-Friday, closed Monday (note: usually closes a month in between exhibits; check ahead to be sure)
- Phone: 313-832-6622
This 22,000-square-foot building hosts cutting-edge art exhibits. Find several per year. Select third Sundays are free days for families with a workshop linked to the current exhibit (they are noon-4 p.m.; check ahead for the latest).
- Address: 10125 E. Jefferson Ave., Detroit
- Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-4 p.m. Sunday
- Phone: 313-626-2000
It’s been churning out world-renown ceramics since 1903, and it’s open for self-guided tours. Discover the magic of clay by watching artists at work, exploring the museum – and maybe even trying a class or workshop.
PuppetART Detroit Puppet Theater and Puppet Center
- Address: 25 E. Grand River Ave., Detroit (theater district area)
- Hours: (for office) noon-3 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; show times are often at 2 p.m. Saturdays and one select Thursday at 10 a.m. each month (check site for latest)
- Phone: 313-961-7777
This small repertory theater delivers engaging puppet shows throughout the year, featuring marionettes, hand and rod puppets and more. Shows tie in literature, dance and music. Visit its museum and stay for a workshop after the show.
The Parade Company
- Address: 9500 Mt. Elliott St., Studio A, Detroit
- Hours: tours can be scheduled 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday (Saturday on request); by appointment; groups of 10-plus
- Phone: 313-923-7400
The guys behind Detroit’s jumbo Thanksgiving parade offer studio tours of massive floats, big papier-mache heads and more.
This post was originally published in 2013 and has been updated for 2016.