Rethink Shinola

RETHINK SHINOLA is a web-based artwork ( that incorporates traditions of just-the-facts-journalism and creative juxtaposition to deconstruct and expose the ideologies underlying Shinola’s commercial rhetoric, past and present.

Shinola purchased their name from the former Shinola, a shoe polish company that promoted their product using racist caricatures of African Americans. The “new” Shinola company planted itself in Detroit and leverages and profiteers from the extreme conditions and image of the city. The company creates representations of patriarchal whiteness to enforce perceptions of their “leadership,” and circulates images and narratives of African American employees being grateful for this so-called governance. Shinola’s executives have referred to themselves as “ambassadors,” using the language of Columbus and the narrative of the civilized savior who first identifies with and then tames the natives.

RETHINK SHINOLA is not meant to be a linear formula to this problem but a way of looking at, unpacking, and addressing these complexities. The work was made in consultation with artists, activists, Detroit historians, labor organizers, and race scholars.



Patricia Aufderehide, “Stories of Fair Use’s Surprising Power,” Center for Media & Social Impact, December 5, 2018.

Valerie Vande Panne, “Meet the Artist Using Media to Defang Capitalism,” AlterNet, June 8, 2018.

Michael Jackman, “Forbes Says Companies Like Nike, Whole Foods, and Shinola are Rebuilding Detroit,” Detroit MetroTimes, March 8, 2018.

Michael Jackman, “A Detroit Artist Deconstructs Shinola’s ‘Unfathomable’ Marketing Game,” Detroit Metro Times, December 12, 2017.

“Artist and Scholar Rebekah Modrak Calls Out the Cultural Appropriation of Black Detroit in New Work ‘Rethink Shinola,’ ” Blavity, December 4, 2017.

Sarah Rose Sharp, “An Artist Takes Issue with a Brand’s Appropriation of Black Detroit,” Hyperallergic, December 1, 2017.

Michael H. Hodges, “ArtPrize Nine Opens Wednesday with 1,346 artists,” The Detroit News, September 18, 2017. [Article featuring my work and three other ArtPrize artists.]

David Pierce, “Shinola’s Quest to Make the Best Turntable You’ve Ever Heard,” WIRED, December 13, 2016.

Rachel Zurer, “Are Shinola’s Luxury Goods Actually Helping Detroit?” Conscious Company Magazine, Issue 9, September/October 2016.

Tyler Denmead, “Colonizing Settlers in the Creative City: A Manifest Destiny,”, March 21, 2016. Web.

Alan Stamm, “Detroiters Will Be Hired to Make Shinola Headphones, Turntables, and Speakers.” Deadline DetroitJanuary 7, 2016. Web.

Alex Williams, “Shinola Takes Its ‘Detroit Cool’ Message on the Road,” The New York Times, January 6, 2016.

Mark Maynard, “Telling shit from Shinola… It’s not as easy as you might think,”, February 10, 2015. Web.