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Auto-Shaped Sculptures to Decorate Streets of Detroit

19 September 2003

Cartunes is a huge art project in which artists will decorate as many as 200 car-shaped fiberglass mouldings to be displayed on streets in Detroit and Windsor.

Arts and tourism leaders on both sides of the border have been meeting for more than a year and a half to plan the $750,000 project, which spotlights the region's two best-known exports, cars and music.

The goal is to have the sculptures in place by June. But organizers are delaying that decision until October, when a consultant's report will give them a better sense of the project's economic viability. If the economy is still flat, they'll put it off a year. But, said Marilyn Wheaton, director of Detroit's Cultural Affairs Department, ""It will happen. It's too good of an idea not to go ahead.""

Similar public art programs have been a boon to downtowns worldwide. Chicago sidewalks were filled with decorated cows in 1999. Vienna, Austria, recently trotted out nearly 100 Lipizzaner stallion sculptures. When Rochester presented its Ewe Revue in 2001, it had sheep with wings, riding bicycles and, in one case, as the body of a motorcycle. The sheep attracted thousands of people to downtown Rochester.

The carlike form will be 6 to 7 feet long, have a cartoonish look with bulbous tires and a soaring roof and will be made of fiberglass.

Artist Joe DeAngelis of LaSalle, Ontario, whose drawings inspired the model, avoided anything that would suggest a specific auto model. ""It has attitude, though,"" he said. ""The front could be the back and the back the front.""

The idea of a show of caricatured car sculptures has been bandied about in metro Detroit for several years. But in early 2001, Wheaton was approached about a cross-border project by Windsor's recreation department. With Detroit enmeshed in its tricentennial celebrations, though, the idea was put on hold.