ART, COMMUNITY, FEATURE STORY

East Canfield Village Art Park Unveils ‘Boy Holds Flower’ Sculpture by Austen Brantley

Over the weekend, I stopped by East Canfield Village to view the unveiling of “Boy Holds Flower,” a figurative sculpture created by Detroit artist Austen Brantley. The sculpture will be a permanent art installation at East Canfield’s new art park.

The community has plans to start building the art park in the coming weeks. The next projects for the park include building a pavilion and horseshoe pit.

Then next spring, art installations will be placed in the art park. The goal is to feature new art by rotating the installations every six months.

If you’d like to see the art sculpture “Boy Holds Flower,” it is located at 4405 E. Lemay at the corner of East Canfield Street (across the street from Barak Obama Leadership Academy).

A few months ago, I interviewed Mr. Jay Smith, owner of Jay’s Flower Shop, and I had the chance to meet the founders of the Canfield Consortium nonprofit organization.

Sisters Kim and Rhonda Theus grew up in East Canfield and later established the nonprofit to help restore the neighborhood and advocate for the community and its residents.

The nonprofit also focuses on issues such as substandard infrastructure, rundown buildings and idle space, and community cleanup efforts.

With the help of the Canfield Consortium, the community has been working hard to revitalize the neighborhood. According to the nonprofit’s website, the community was able to complete many service projects last year. Highlights include:

  • 8 Vacant Lots Cleared
  • 100 Residents & Community Partners Volunteered 300 Hours
  • 10 Trees Planted
  • 200 Flower And Shrub Varieties Planted
  • 120 Hours of Community Engagement
  • 7 Grants Awarded
  • 2 Community Flower Gardens

You can learn more about East Canfield Village through the Canfield Consortium Instagram account or connect online here. The nonprofit shares updates on community projects and other important issues happening in the neighborhood.

“BOY HOLDS FLOWER” FIGURATIVE SCULPTURE

Detroit artist Austen Brantley created the figurative sculpture “Boy Holds Flower” for the East Canfield community to convey the “innocence of a man before he experiences the chaos and ugliness of the world.”

“The harsh truth of toxic masculinity that I grew up learning inspired the creation of one of the first public works of art that represent young Black men without a historical context. I want young Black people to see themselves represented in a narrative of classical figurative sculpture and public art and change our perspective to boys holding flowers instead of guns.”

Austen Brantley, Detroit Artist 

Austen Brantley is a figurative sculptor based in the Detroit area. In his junior year at Berkley High School, Austen discovered he had a talent for sculpture art. He was inspired by his high school ceramics teacher to pursue his art and he has been very successful over the years.

He won the Kresge Gilda Snowden award, and his art has been featured in galleries such as the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and the Detroit Institute of Arts. Austen also created a life-size monument honoring the late Civil Rights activist Viola Liuzzo.


READ: “Centering Mental Wellness and Healing for Black Women: Q&A with Rowana Abbensetts”


“Austen spoke earlier about how Black people and Black men, particularly, don’t see themselves reflected in art and beauty. For us, it’s really important that Black people see themselves in art because art is considered beauty. If you don’t see yourself [in art], then you think that you’re not beautiful.

‘Boy Holds Flower’ is looking at Black masculinity through a different lens that allows Black men to be vulnerable, to be able to look at a flower and not be thought of as soft or weak, but knowing that’s just a part of themselves. You need to take those moments sometimes to be vulnerable.”

Kim Theus, President and Co-Founder of Canfield Consortium

READ: “HIP HOP ARTIST LANDO CHILL SHARES HIS THOUGHTS ON HIS ‘BLACK EGO’ ALBUM, BLACK FEMINISM, AND SUPPORTING WOMEN’S RIGHTS”


If you love the “Boy Holds Flower” sculpture Austen created, then you can also view more of his work at the Norwest Gallery of Art!

Last Friday was the opening night of his solo exhibit “Behind the Mask.” It will be open until the end of September. Connect with Norwest Gallery on Instagram for the latest updates.

Visit the Canfield Consortium’s official website here to learn more about the nonprofit and East Canfield Village! You can also follow the organization on Instagram here.

Thank you, Canfield Consortium, for inviting me to see “Boy Holds Flower” and to learn more about the community!

All photographs by Jennifer Hamra for Good Life Detroit.


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