Artist John Sauve. Photo by Doug Clark.

Looking Up In Detroit: Man In The City Brings Art To Skyline, Kids

BY Crystal A. Proxmire


If you've looked up in downtown Detroit lately you've probably noticed large, male figures atop a number of buildings, looking out, over and down upon the city. Currently the Man in the City Project has 30 large sculptures placed on the tops of buildings throughout Detroit. The large, colorful figures are an urban art project started by John Sauve to engage youth, raise awareness and raise money for a worthy cause.

Sauve has always known about the value of art in terms of livening up public spaces and as a form of personal and cultural expression. But the idea of art as a way to change the lives of young people took a whole new form when he visited the Harvey Milk High School, part of the Hetrick-Martin Institute in New York City in 2010. There he met homeless LGBT youth who were living out of their lockers at school.

"You see these kids and they are so strong. I wanted to help, to give them something beyond the basics. I started the Man in the City Project to teach kids about art. But it teaches so much more than that. It shows them they can do a project from beginning to end. They can visualize something, plan it and see it through," Sauve said. "It takes kids from a concept to a finished project that entails a kid learning transferable skills and goal setting."

He explained the value of art to uplift people no matter their situation, and he turned his concern into a two week program where homeless and at-risk youth started with a blank sculpture and transformed it into their own creation. The artwork was then used by the City of New York for their Highline Park, giving the youth yet another reason to feel pride and value. The subject matter itself, a simple yet powerful male form forged in confidently bright orange, gives students a reason to think about what their identity means to them. Who are they? What do they project to the world? Where do they fit in?

He described the added effects by saying, "Aside from raising awareness for art education, The Man in the City Project activates the skyline and encourages people to look around. In this process of looking and finding, one re-assesses one's own position in the world and becomes aware of one's scale within the very fabric of the city. The Man in the City Project creates a metaphor for urban life and all the contradictory associations - alienation, ambition, anonymity and fame."

In Michigan the Man in the City Project has grown tremendously. There are fundraisers to be held at several of the locations where the statutes are found, and the money raised will help fund classes for youth at the Carr Center in Detroit.

The first fundraiser will be at University of Detroit, 1427 Randolph Feb. 7 at 6 p.m. and will support the children's Music Program at the Carr Center. The event will feature music by Jennifer Westwood, Cha Cha Kitty, and Pru and Schu. Classic concert poster artist Gary Grimshaw has also stepped up to help the cause, and will have posters available for sale at the event.

Future fundraisers include The Scarab Club, Pioneer Building, Salt and Cedar, Atwater Brewing Company, YMCA, Opera House, Music Hall and The Majestic.

To see where the 30 large sculptures are placed, check out the Google Map at For more information and updates on future fundraisers check out

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