Spotify Commissions Ruth Ellis Center Mural to Celebrate Queer Community

The artist, ggggrimes, is Black, non-binary and queer

By |2021-07-06T10:51:12-04:00July 5th, 2021|Michigan, News|

The Ruth Ellis Center’s Victor Street building is sporting a new look thanks to Spotify and ggggrimes, a Philadelphia-based artist who identifies as Black, non-binary and queer.

The building has been painted with a mural that “shines a spotlight on the important contributions of featured artists and activists local to the Detroit area including K-HAND, DJ MINX, Griz, Ruth Ellis and Dr. Kofi in telling their own unique stories,” according to Spotify Social Impact and Brand & Creative Teams. Spotify is also making a donation to the Ruth Ellis Center.

This is all part of Spotify’s “Claim Your Space” initiative, which the blog describes as Spotify’s way of “encouraging the queer community to make noise, make their presence known, and make their own rules with a single rallying cry: Claim Your Space. With a series of activations, this global campaign is aimed at creating permanent space, both physical and digital, for the LGTBQIA+ community.”

The idea for Claim Your Space came from the historical marginalization of queer culture. “It happened behind closed doors, blacked out windows, without witnesses, without a name,” states Spotify Social Impact and Brand & Creative Teams. “It was forced underground and within the shadows. It was silenced.”

And since silence is not exactly on brand for Spotify, they devised a way to counter it: “With this in mind, we were inspired to create work that would claim both cultural and physical space for the LGBTQIA+ community. We wanted to create an indelible testament to queer survival, queer creativity, and queer joy while also celebrating the creators and activists within the community who have always fearlessly demanded to be seen, to be heard, and to be recognized as who they authentically are.”

According to Spotify’s “For the Record” blog, Detroit was chosen along with Nashville and New Orleans because they are “places where the queer community has been instrumental to the music scene, but their stories are often untold — to commission permanent murals celebrating these groundbreaking local LGBTQIA+ artists and activists, in close collaboration with queer community spaces and The Ally Coalition.”


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While not connected to Detroit, ggggrimes communicates to Pride Source via email that they “did research on techno culture, where festivals are located, techno fashion, and old school Detroit queer culture.” 

“Detroit is an area where the queer community has been instrumental to the music scene,” ggggrimes says. “This project was an amazing opportunity for me to deep dive into Detroit’s queer techno scene. I’m honored to learn so much about Detroit and help give a loving gift to the queer community there.”

ggggrimes describes their artistic style as “something similar to a graphic novel, but softer. I really love anime, manga and manhwa, and my style has been heavily influenced by these art forms. I like bold color palettes, patterns, and line width variation.”

The goal of the mural is not only to pay tribute to queer music culture in Detroit, it’s also to simply inspire joy. “I hope that it makes them happy when they look at it, or that they see some part of themselves in it,” ggggrimes says. “That’s always been my goal — for queer people to find joy in my artwork.”

Spotify also teamed up with DJ Minx to curate a Detroit-specific playlist that includes artists such as GRiZ, K-Hand, Alex Wilcox and Hotwaxx Hale. 

“We were very proud to work with DJ Minx,” Spotify Social Impact and Brand & Creative Teams tell Pride Source. “She is a techno legend and a pivotal figure in the Detroit music scene. We worked with her to curate our Detroit city playlist as we knew her passion and authenticity would shine through.”

Spotify’s curated flagship Pride playlist “Out Now” features artists such as Frank Ocean, Lil Nas X, Hayley Kiyoko, King Princess, girl in red, and Syd. 

About the Author:

D'Anne Witkowski
D'Anne Witkowski is a writer living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBTQ+ politics for nearly two decades. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.