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CCS Detroit Grand Prix Poster Contest Crowns a Winner; merchandise to come

Vaseline 1 month ago

Alison Slackta had talent and imagination. Growing up in Byron, she had no idea what to do with it.

That’s no joke about Byron, population 581, the gateway to Argentine Township. But now that Slackta’s artwork was selected a few days ago as the poster for the 2024 Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, it’s a great show of support for exposing kids to arts, crafts, and many other things that might not show up on a college entrance exam.

Slackta, a senior in the College for Creative Studies, was referred to a portfolio development course at the Flint Institute of Arts in high school. Twenty-five miles northwest of home, the class exposed her to a whole new world.

“I learned that you can actually go to an art school,” she said in an auditorium in Midtown, where the five finalists’ artworks stood on easels in front of a low stage. That revelation was followed by a series of thoughts, ending with, “I have no other skills. I’m going.’

In a few months, she’ll walk away with an unexpected $2,000 grand prize in the twelfth annual competition for CCS students, offering not only a sparkling highlight on her resume, but also the satisfaction of seeing her creation on fans’ T-shirts to see and the knowledge that it will end up framed in countless homes.

Slackta took the checkered flag in a photo finish with the judges split 4-4 between her interpretation of street art and a Jordan Crouch fantasy involving a child leaning over the Renaissance Center and an IndyCar as a toy. Online voting the day before provided the tiebreaker.

It’s always fascinating, said Detroit Grand Prix President Michael Montri, to see “how these students stick to their artistic vision” as they create something that, with a few professional tweaks, will be both marketable and everlasting.

In fact, the finalists were all women, and although at least one of them said they attended the Grand Prix as a child, “the assignment has nothing to do with being gearheads,” Montri said. Rather, it’s about finding the pulse of the race through downtown Detroit, understanding pieces of the city and its culture, and putting them together.

Montri was one of the jury members. Others included two CCS graduates who went into the auto industry, cartoonist and Detroit News auto critic Henry Payne, and me.

You could lock me in an art store for six months with no connection to the outside world except Hot-N-Readys, and I’d end up with nothing but a stack of pizza boxes. Likewise, I can’t sing, strum or, now that I think about it, weld.

But I’m a big believer in opportunity, and I’m not fond of art, music, and industrial arts quickly falling victim when a school district is facing budget problems. So I was happy to represent the untalented and hear about Slackta’s first step in turning a passion into a profession.

Traffic rules

At a school where there is sometimes friction between industrial design students heading into the automotive industry and students with less immediately marketable goals, the competition served as a crossroads of sorts.

As a general rule, says Professor Taylor Callery, “nobody says, ‘Hey, illustrators, do you want to draw some race cars?’ But a dozen of the sixteen students in his editorial illustration class submitted potential posters.

The artworks were all 16 by 24 inches, although Slacktas for sale are blown up to 24 by 36 inches. They had to list the dates of the race, May 31 – June 2; the name; the official logo; at least one of the types of cars that will compete; and something that suggested Detroit.

“Illustrators,” Callery said, “have the ability to really create a story that tells a story.”

Crouch, the runner-up, played on the almost universal childhood moments of playing with cars. Slackta turned to street art, sometimes a more polite term for graffiti, which meant using oil paint to represent spray paint.

An artist in a hoodie on the left side of her poster is finishing a painting of the Renaissance Center. The background to all this is a pale brick wall. The letters are blue and orange in the cartoonish print that taggers often prefer. On the right, an IndyCar and a sports car zoom past another of the artist’s tributes to the city, the left hand and vibe of the Spirit of Detroit.

The nose of the IndyCar didn’t quite fit into the rectangle, or maybe the artist didn’t want it to. That will change in the final product.

Bumps in the road

Judges were sent to work with a reminder and a request.

Remember, we were told, that the idea is to choose the best poster, not necessarily the best artwork. And: if small changes are needed, don’t be shy.

One of the two posters deserving of honorable mention, by Moaray Hunter, featured a racing car reflected in the visor of a helmet. It was a vibrant image, but the background was flickering red and yellow. As GM Motorsports design manager Sam Zhao noted, it’s probably best to avoid anything that resembles fire during an auto racing promotion.

Similarly, Dena Hu’s third-place design featured images of a blue-and-green IndyCar tumbling through the air before crashing past the RenCen onto the ground. Definitely striking, someone said, but let’s not send a race car into the air.

The judges appreciated the details of the other honorable mention nominee, by Abbey Sutter. A little girl riding on her father’s back was wearing hearing protection and had a missing front tooth. But overall it was too reminiscent of the 2023 winner, and variety is the spice of sales growth.

The race and the Detroit Sports Media Association provided the prize money, including $1,200 for second place, $750 for third and $500 each for the other two.

Disappointment was inevitable, but in commercial art rejection is the norm. ‘A small glimpse into your world’, as Montri put it, with assignments, deadlines and periodic rejections.

Slackta said she expects to be thrown into disarray as she tries to build a post-doctoral portfolio in book illustration. She doesn’t expect to be arrested for vandalism.

One of the judges – okay, it was me – asked if she had ever tagged a building.

“No,” she said, and with everything going so well, there’s no point in starting now.

Reach Neal Rubin at [email protected].

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