Fine artist Desiree Kelly researches the subjects for her urban portraits to capture their stories in interesting and accurate ways. Kelly answers a few questions to expand on what she is up to.

Detroit Performs: What are you currently working on?

Desiree Kelly: I am currently working on a few projects. I’m painting 4 8x8ft murals to be installed in St. Clair Shores on the Shores Theatre, which they are revamping. The murals are of movie directors Spike Lee, David Lynch, Clint Eastwood and Alfred Hitchcock. It’s a pretty cool project to be a part of – making this a destination to attract the residents in the Greater Mack area and eventually from all over.

I’m also working on new work for an exhibition at Detroit Shipping Company in January 2019. It’s a huge show that’s going to fill both galleries that they have on the second floor. The West Gallery & Bridge Lounge Gallery it’s going to be over 40 pieces

I’ve also been working with B.L.A.C magazine for a calendar highlighting a selection on local African American musicians.

DP: What is the progress of your project with FootLocker?

DK: It’s been an ongoing collaboration. I’ve been working with them since the summer for developing the identity/feel for their stores in the Detroit region. It’s very cool to be creating artwork for the company that is localized for us in this region. They are opening up a huge store on the Eastside on 8 mile and I’m creating a lot of artwork for the inside and outside of the store. Displays, walls, t-shirt… putting Detroit feel on everything. People are going to love it!

DP: What does it mean to you to put your message in a work of art for corporations?

DK: It means a lot that they trust me with what I do and to be able to provide such an original concept that is customized for that company – whatever their message may be.

DP: Why do you think corporations collaborating with artists is beneficial?

DK: The benefit is being able to personalize something or connect directly with their targeted market. Bringing a concept to life through artwork is an innovative and cool concept. To be able to out-source your creative direction with someone like me opens up a lot of possibilities that weren’t assessable before.

DP: What are some stories of people experiencing your murals?

DK: I get stories all the time from people. It’s interesting how they make that connection with me when we finally come across each other. For the most part they randomly come across my work just navigating throughout the city and realize it’s the same artist..then they realize it’s me.  They’re like “Did you do…?” Yep! Thats my work. It’s crazy that has even happened to me while in Chicago for my Obama crown portrait.

DP: Who have you been researching to feature in upcoming portraits?

DK: The project (I’m researching is) working with the city of St. Clair Shores for the Shores Theater. Highlighting the types of movies they will show and representing a select few portraits of movie directors.

DP: Anything else you want people to know about your current artistic work?

DK: I was commissioned by the Charles H Wright Museum on African American History to create a one-of-a-kind 4x6ft painting of “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin for their permanent collection – set to be installed (in) 2020. The painting contains artifacts which includes a Cadillac hood ornament as her earring, original vinyl records and sheet music.