A New Mural is Coming to Detroit’s Broderick Tower

The colorful piece by artist Phillip Simpson will debut on Nov. 16
Phillip Simpson’s “Detroit Is Home” mural debuts on Nov. 16. // Photograph courtesy of Rocket Companies

Rocket Companies has tapped Detroit artist Phillip Simpson to create a new mural for the side of the city’s 34-story Broderick Tower. The piece, titled “Detroit Is Home,” debuts on Nov. 16 and will feature the bright and bold smiley faces the fine artist and muralist has become known for.

“With ‘Detroit Is Home,’ I believe everybody is going to drive past Broderick Tower and see themself in some form or way,” says Simpson in a video (below) shared on the Rocket Mortgage YouTube page, “and hopefully they can smile when they see it.”

Simpson, whose work recently appeared at the Monroe Street Midway, is the founder of The Smile Brand, a lifestyle brand that sells optimistic T-shirts, stickers, and other goods. He was also the founder and owner of The Baltimore Gallery in Detroit’s Milwaukee Junction neighborhood. The gallery was open from 2015 to 2019.

His new mural will be printed on vinyl and attached to Broderick Tower, which is located at 10 Witherell St. The work will cover — although, not permanently — the iconic humpback whale mural that’s on the east side of the building.

This isn’t the first time the whales have been covered. According to the Detroit Free Press, ads for brands like Jeep, Verizon, and Blackberry covered the mural from 2006 to 2012. In 2018, Detroit Media Group also requested to cover the whale mural with an ad but it was denied by Detroit’s Board of Zoning Appeals.

A mockup shows what Phillip Simpson’s work will look like on the Broderick Tower. // Image courtesy of Rocket Companies

According to Rocket Companies, it was the possibility of the space being used for a billboard once again that prompted it to step with a mission to promote local art. “When we heard this property was going to be used as advertising space again, we saw it as a great opportunity to take control of the space and bring more art to downtown Detroit. Such a high-profile location — seen all around the world during Tigers’ home games — needs to be a place to display the work of Detroit artists,” says Casey Hurbis, chief marketing officer of Rocket Companies’ marketing provider Rock Central, in a press release. “We hope other Detroit companies and property owners will also explore using their buildings as canvases for local artists.”

Other murals by Detroit artists on Rocket Companies’ buildings include Charles McGee’s “Still Searching” at 28 Grand, Sydney James‘ “Out of the Ashes We Will Rise” in the Federal Reserve building garage, and Swoon’s “Monica” on the Ally Detroit Center building.

Rocket Companies is encouraging locals to visit the building to take photos with the whale mural before “Detroit Is Home” is unveiled this month. The piece was painted by artist and environmental activist Robert Wyland in 1997. It is one of 100 “Whaling Walls” Wyland created.

For more information, visit rocketmortgage.com/homeisdetroit.  

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Emma Klug is a senior editor and digital content coordinator at Hour Detroit. In her role, Klug writes and edits stories on community, art, food, and lifestyle topics for hourdetroit.com, edits the Hour Daily newsletter, and is involved in planning and proofing the monthly print magazine. She also oversees the editorial web internship program for the magazine. A graduate of Columbia College Chicago, Klug has been with Hour Detroit since 2016. She has also contributed to Hour Media publications DBusiness magazine and Metro Detroit Weddings magazine. You can reach her at eklug@hour-media.com.