Back From the Dead: Iconic Mural by Legendary Detroit Artist Restored [PHOTOS]

Charles McGee originally painted the untitled geometric mural at 234 W. Larned in 1974. It’s been slowly fading away ever since.

Courtesy of Charles McGee

Click the audio player above to listen to the full story. CultureShift airs weekdays 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit Public Radio.

At 94-years-old, artist Charles McGee is a living legend among Detroit artists.

His work has been shown nationally and lives locally at storied institutions like the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

And now a piece of McGee’s legacy from 1974 is seeing new life thanks to a sizable investment from a downtown hotel and a duo of local artists.

Located on the east-facing wall of 234 W. Larned downtown, the roughly 60-foot-by-40-foot mural is part of the Detroit Foundation Hotel’s footprint. Hotel general manager Bob Lambert says the hotel will spend $45,000 on the restoration, which will see vinyl stickers cover the windows to complete the original design.

Ryan Patrick Hooper

McGee’s mural will be restored by 60-year-old artist and educator Hubert Massey, who is considered one of the last living artists in the United States who still works in the fresco medium. Just a block away from the Detroit Foundation Hotel, Massey wrapped up work last year on a massive, 6-ton 30-foot-by-30-foot fresco inside of Cobo Center.

“It’s just really exciting that the [Detroit] Foundation Hotel found it so important to revitalize this mural and just really dive in and be a real positive influence in the city of Detroit,” says Massey, who is working alongside fellow Detroit artist Henry Heading, 61, on the job.

During the restoration, even Charles McGee’s original signature — visible near the bottom right corner of the mural — will be preserved.

Ryan Patrick Hooper

The restoration of the mural will cost $45,000 and use about 20 gallons of paint, says artist Hubert Massey.

Ryan Patrick Hooper

Roughly a week into the process, the mural is starting to become more defined and colorful as Massey continues to work.

Ryan Patrick Hooper

Author

  • Ryan Patrick Hooper

    Ryan Patrick Hooper is the award-winning host and producer of CultureShift on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit’s NPR station. Hooper has covered stories for the New York Times, NPR, Detroit Free Press, Hour Detroit, SPIN and Paste magazine.