Thomas Leeper doesn’t have a ton of free time. But the little he does, he spends systematically biking around Detroit. Along the way, he photographs every piece of public art he encounters for his project, Every Linear Mile.
His goal is to travel the approximately 4,000 miles of road in the city by bike. And at 3,500 miles, he’s nearly there. He expects to be finished with the project, which began in February 2017, sometime in the fall.
His reasons for doing it are simple. “To see art, most people visit three or four districts, like Eastern Market,” Leeper says. “I’m just trying to show how much unique art there is that people overlook every day.”
The regular updates on his website detail his thorough process. Usually at or before dawn, Leeper will drive to a place he’s yet to survey. Within that area, he’ll bike up and down every single street, stopping to photograph every conceivable work of art—that could be graffiti on an abandoned home or a publicly commissioned statue.
His definition for what counts as art is simple: “Anything that I can tell someone invested time into.” When all is said and done, he may end up cataloguing 8,000 works of art.
The rides, usually between 10 and 30 miles, are tracked with an app on his iPhone. Then he uploads the photos, also taken with his iPhone, to his website and pins them on a larger map. A brief blog post details his observations for the day.
Leeper bikes most Saturdays and Sundays, regardless of weather. He bikes in snow, he bikes in heat, he bikes in harsh wind. He even bikes on New Years Eve and New Years Day.
Beyond riding every mile of the city, he’s not sure what will come of the project. He recognizes that the city’s landscape is constantly changing, and many of the works he’s captured will disappear, either through decay, demolition, or renewal.
“At the end of the day, it’s a project finished,” he says. “A blog, a set of pictures, and a digital map for anyone to see at any time.”
Eventually there might be a book, but only because that’s how some people enjoy digesting material, not so he can make money. There might be tours, though that’s challenging when the works are so spread out.
“I don’t know what Every Linear Mile 2.0 is,” he says. “But whatever it is, I want it to be more inclusive.”