Group of Detroit artists leading the way and growing opportunities

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Growing up, the "Whlgns” (Hooligans) didn't always know their talent - or their worth.

The young creatives were born and bred on Detroit's east side, an area known more for crime than creativity.

Meet: Allante Steele, who goes by Uncle Tae; Rowan Minor; Antonio Robinson, also known as Tony Whlgn; and Breann White. The Whlgns is a conglomerate of creative entrepreneurs. Founder Tony Whlgn is the painter, Breann is a photographer, Row does videography, and Uncle Tay the motivational speaking.

"I like to call myself director of infinite opportunity," said Steele.

"We weren't exposed to a lot of creative things," said Minor. "These things are possible; you can make a living out of creating art."

Which is something they learned on their own through trial and error. Now they are becoming the mentors to young people that they never really had.

"A lot of people don't have either confidence or the knowledge to know how to accomplish or pursue those things or even create those opportunities for themselves but - we may know how," Robinson said.

So they've started the Leaders Amongst Leaders program right here in the city where this circle of family and friends grew up.

"Home is where the heart is. That's where our support system is, where our family is, that's where our work ethic is, that's where our hustle is. It's home," Steele said.

And a home on Rosedale is their home base, where they're growing their businesses and helping teenagers to become creative entrepreneurs. The group is already mentoring Roman with his own streetwear line and Christian, a DJ with his own clothing line.

"It feels good to be able to mentor them and let them know that we got the resources you need," said Steele.

And now they have a lot more resources. Last week the group won a $50,000 grant at the My Brother's Keeper Detroit Innovation Challenge to get a new facility and grow this program.

"We really want to expand, like from two kids to 10," said Breann.

A commitment to kids, to creativity and to continuing their mission.

"I just want to see them doing great - and I won't stop until I do," said Steele.

"If we can help and change at least one life - it's a big blessing," Breann said.

"I feel like art saved my life, so hopefully we can take it and help to save some others’ lives," Robinson said.

"Do what you love - love what you do - and if you know the way, show the way," Minor said.

"Leaders lead," said Robinson.

Check out the Definition of Red photography exhibit from Breann Whlgn at Playground, 2845 Gratiot Ave. until March 16.

Follow the artists on Instagram: @tonywhlgn @breannwhlgn @rowwhlgn @uncwhlgn