Back to All Posts

Sidewalk artist David Zinn ’86 on art: less mystery, more fun

Some say art, like life itself, is made more precious because it’s ephemeral. You would get little argument from David Zinn ’86, the Ann Arbor sidewalk chalk artist whose quirky, sweet characters, drawn predominantly on the streets of Ann Arbor, are beginning to draw  international attention.

web zinnZinn, a successful commercial artist for more than 20 years, visited Greenhills this week to talk about his charmingly skewed world. It’s a world in which rubicund pigs flutter on white wings up through blue skies and puffy clouds, all of which are revealed to exist beneath a section of sidewalk peeled back, like the top of a concrete sardine can, by Zinn’s favorite monster, Sluggo.

When viewed from the proper angle, each sidewalk piece jumps to life as a 3-D image, often incorporating objects found nearby and natural flaws in sidewalks or walls.

With the Greenhills students assembled in the Campbell Center, Zinn emphasized that we’ve all been drawing since we could clutch a crayon in our hands. It’s only later in life, when the world seems tumblr_n87uuePo5K1rnfxtzo1_500to be demanding “art with a capital A” produced by professionals, that most of us decide that if we continue to draw at all, it’s best to consider ourselves mere “doodlers.”

Part of his aim, when he draws on the street or sidewalk with commonly available materials, is to demystify and democratize both the creation and appreciation of art. Too many of us, he told students, binge on art in the museum, struggling to spend just the right amount of time in front of each piece, and racing from room to room in immense buildings as if we were expecting a test on the way out.

Check out some of Zinn’s work at,, or in stories like this one from The Ann Arbor News. Or view a video explaining more about his work at this IndieGoGo page that helped raise money for his next book, which will compile some of his favorite work.

Saturday, April 24
Open to anyone ages 16 and up. Limited quantities available.
Greenhills is closed for mid-winter break and will return on Tuesday, Feb. 22.