With a few strokes of her brush, Ashley McFadden put the final touches on her portrait of Jeffrey Gisstenar. McFadden had been collaborating with Gisstenar, the owner of Good Cookies in Detroit’s North Rosedale Park neighborhood, for weeks on a new mural that would appear on the outside of his business as part of the Gilbert Family Foundation’s Small Business Murals Project.

The portrait of Gisstenar was one part of the mural, which also included important moments in his life, reminders of his family, and artistic interpretations of the many quality ingredients that go into his famous cookies.

 “I hope for my customers and the community to come here and see the vision between the artist Ashley and myself, and to sit in the patio and feel a sense of community,” said Gisstenar. “It will be a conversation piece.”

Since 2017, the Small Business Murals Project has helped inspire countless conversations in small businesses throughout the city by pairing local artists with Detroit entrepreneurs. The artists collaborate with small business owners to create large-scale murals that beautify the community and increase foot traffic for the business. We work with nonprofit partners including TechTown and ProsperUs to identify eligible small businesses, and 1xRUN to help find prominent and emerging Detroit artists. The artists are then paired with the business owners to collaborate on mural development, highlighting a shared vision through their unique partnership.

The Small Business Murals Project is a prime example of a program that highlights our belief in the power of arts and culture to build more resilient and connected communities. “Art brings people together,” said Jasmin DeForrest, Director of Arts and Culture at the Gilbert Family Foundation. “Our mission is around building opportunity, and…we want to make sure that arts and culture [are] at the heart of that.”

To date, 32 murals have been created through the Small Business Murals Project, featuring the work of artists like Freddy Diaz, Phil “Fresh” Simpson, and Sheefy McFly. The businesses selected to participate range from coffee shops to gyms, restaurants to auto repair shops – and even nonprofits.  That’s part of what makes the Small Business Murals Project so unique – it supports both local creative professionals as well as business owners and the overall entrepreneurial ecosystem in Detroit.

“Creating art for small businesses in my community means a lot to me,” said McFadden, who participated in the project for the first time.  

Check out the video below to learn more about this year’s murals, which featured many new artists, and hear from some of the business owners on the power of this unique program. And check out all the murals on our mural map here.