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Where Others See a Sidewalk, He Saw Art

February 10, 2017

“Bright ideas from a slightly bent mind.” — Ann Arbor News

Finding a career is hard when you major in creative writing. You are likely to spend some time knocking on doors. That's why, in 1987, David Zinn found that while walking the streets he might as well draw them--whenever and wherever he could improve the cityscape. Thus was born a new career from which he has, thankfully, never recovered. Which is why this long-time Ann Arbor artist's preferred canvas is the sidewalk. A curb or wall will do just fine, too. His specialty form of chalk art is known as anamorphic, which a layman can translate as 3D.

His followers view his work as urban ‘trompe l’oeil’ for the overscheduled and overhyped, a thumbs up to the those of us who need to be reminded not to spend too much time ranting or raving about Elizabeth Warren. 

Zinn’s preferred materials are chalk and charcoal, but he isn’t afraid to add the flotsam of city life including debris, alleyway junk, and trash as long as it suits the occasion. He work has been featured in Ann Arbor and as far away as subway platforms in New York City, and has been covered by the Huffington Post to Facebook. 

His art has something for everyone: humor, whimsy, irony, and for those who don’t quite get it, the paintings are as temporary as ice sculpture. Just a good rain or snowfall and the exhibit ends. You might say nature is his most fearsome critic.

There is no career magic. Every successful endeavor requires hard work, dedication, talent and some luck. For David Zinn, it also meant finding opportunity where others saw only concrete.

Zinn is self-taught. He has a degree in creative writing from the University of Michigan, is a children’s radio show host, and a musician. Not surprisingly, the instrument he loves to play is whistling. 

Why he paints on sidewalks is more important even than how well he does it. He reminds us we can still laugh at life while cursing the sidewalk cracks as we stumble.

Zinn serves clients from commercial firms to shop owners. If you want to know more about his story, here is his website


The Sidewalk Art of David Zinn (Ann Arbor)















Author’s Bio

Jeff Cunningham is a global leadership advocate, which he calls the most valuable natural resource in the world.

He is a Professor at ASU’s Thunderbird School of Global Management and was the former publisher of Forbes Magazine, an internet CEO and venture capital partner.

He is a chronicler of iconic leaders.

As an interviewer/host, he created a YouTube interview series now co-produced by @Thunderbird, Iconic Voices, featuring mega moguls like Warren Buffett to Jeff Immelt at IconicVoices.TV. His articles are posted to LinkedIn and Medium via TheArtofLeaders.com.

His career experience includes publisher of Forbes Magazine; founder of Directorship Magazine; CEO of Zip2 (founded by Elon Musk), Myway.com, and CareerTrack.com; venture partner with Schroders. He serves as a trustee of the McCain Institute and previously as a trustee of CSIS and Middle East Institute, and as an advisor to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee.

He has also been a board director of 10 public companies.