Creatives We Love: Mike Han

We can't recall exactly how or where we first discovered Mike Han, but we instantly fell in love with his work.  During a recent visit to Detroit we had the opportunity to meet Mike in person, see his studio and learn more about his work, his journey to this moment and all the incredible things in his future.

Mike (@mikehan_detroit) has a gentle spirit, an incredible talent and a strong point of view.  We walked away from our time together inspired and excited and we think you will too. 

Creatives We Love: Mike Han

Photo by: Linea Photo

How did your art career start?

I’d say 2007(ish). I had just dropped out of Purdue after attempting suicide (sorry to start this out so heavy) and came back to Metro Detroit in deep depression. A year or so later I visited Korea for the first time with my parents. My aunt is a doll designer in Korea and was having a show at Ssamzegil in Insadong (an art district) while I was staying out there. She asked me if I wanted to participate in the show, and I did. So my first exhibition was in Korea. Crazy right?

Recently, my return to art came from an email out of the blue with a request for me to paint a mural inside a home. It was in November of 2020, and was the first income I had since the last unemployment check the state gave me which was in June. After that commission, I decided out of necessity that I needed to become a full-time artist so that I could pay January's rent. 

If you or someone you know is struggling, please contact the National Suicide Prevention line, you can call 24/7: 1-800-273-TALK or chat online at:

Creatives We Love: Mike Han

Tell us about your unique point of view in your art?  What do you want people to feel or think about?

I think art asks people to consider the world in a way they may not have before. Art asks questions, and illuminates new perspectives. I think the point is for art to make people feel, and to think. How they feel and think as a result of the experience is what makes art so special.

For me personally, I want people to consider the cyclical nature of life and help us better understand that we are all connected. These are definitely the central themes of my work, but I am starting to explore identity, and my individual experience as a vignette of the broader human experience which my work has spoken about for the past 10 years. 

Creatives We Love: Mike Han

Share your perspective and appreciation for Modern Vandalism.

I coined the term “Modern Vandalism” in December of 2020 just before my first solo exhibition as a way to describe my practice. After creating a body of work on salvaged blueprints, this idea struck me. I’ve been practicing art and sushi (I used to be a pretty good sushi chef) with the understanding that in order to create, you must destroy. 

This understanding makes creating art or sushi quite challenging as I feel a great responsibility to my ingredients or materials. 

I’ve been influenced by graffiti from a very young age, and have watched it evolve over 30 years. It was initially perceived strictly as vandalism, but in more recent years, artists like Banksy have changed public perception of painting in public without permission. Vandalism has been protected by governments and private property owners because the illegal act has added value to their property. 

So in a moment of clarity, I realized that we are all vandals. Humans are vandals but we don’t consider ourselves vandals, because we believe the things we make are good. Modern Vandalism is defined as the mindful act of destruction in an effort to create value.

I’m by no means the only practitioner of Modern Vandalism, but I think it’s a nice way to describe general intention for a shift we’re seeing by creatives to add value to the world while being respectful of our impact and waste.

Creatives We Love: Mike Han

Why is public art so important?

Public art is important because it’s free. It’s not necessarily free to produce (without permission, that’s vandalism. Speech comes at a cost.), but it’s free for anyone to enjoy and be inspired by. Everything in this world is designed. So I think it’s imperative that the built environment is designed in ways to bring joy and happiness to everyday life. Art has the power to do that.

Creatives We Love: Mike Han

Tell us something you're excited about in the future!

Building community. I have a strong desire to create space to grow, flourish, and inspire. I’ve been manifesting dreams this year, and I’m gonna put it out there, that by 2022 I will create a special place in Detroit to cultivate art, design, and Korean-American culture.

Creatives We Love: Mike Han

Photo credit: Exp Det

Who are other creatives that inspire you?

Aimee Lee - I just recently learned about her, but she’s an artist, papermaker, writer who is the leading hanji researcher/practitioner in N. America. Hanji is traditional Korean paper that can last over 1000 years, and is made without cutting down trees. 

Aimee Lee

Bo & Kyle, Founders of Woodward Throwbacks - They salvage all kinds of material from buildings in Detroit and transform them into home furnishings, and more recently, into art in collaboration with local artists. 

Woodward Throwbacks

What's next for you?  

In April I have several exciting collaborations.  The first is a collaboration project with Synecdoche Design and Ryan Southen Photography called Discard. For this project I painted on several iconic vintage pieces of Mid-Century Modern furniture that were weathered and worn out. The series is an effort to resituate the value of expired objects. The second is a crazy collab with Leon Speakers that I can't talk much about, but it will be amazing. 
Finally, I'm doing an artist residency at The Siren Hotel and will be releasing a collection of original paintings on salvaged pages from vintage atlases. These works will be made at the hotel but will be sold on my website. 
Creatives We Love: Mike Han

We feel grateful to have found Mike and for our time together talking about business, life and dreaming.  It was also a delight to be able to have a piece he created.  We are currently searching for the perfect place for it in our home.  If you’d like to learn more about Mike and his practice, visit or follow him on instagram @mikehan_detroit.  Mike has big plans on the horizon and we think you'll enjoy his journey.

If you or someone you know is struggling, please contact the National Suicide Prevention line, you can call 24/7: 1-800-273-TALK or chat online at:

Creatives We Love

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