Cranbrook: Artiful…

13 May

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Cranbrook Academy of Art is known as the ‘cradle of American modernism’. In 1904 George and Ellen Booth purchased more than 300 acres of land that would eventually become Cranbrook. George Booth, newspaper baron and philanthropist, dreamed of creating a cultural institution on the property. He envisioned Cranbrook Academy as a place where students learned under the guidance of masters in their field. Eliel Saarinen was brought in to oversee the architectural and landscape development of the campus; the environment he created is one-of-a-kind. The campus is a National Historic Landmark, considered the most complete example of Saarinen’s genius, it is a treasure of architecture and horticulture. The original structures were built from the late 1920’s through 1942. Once a year Cranbrook hosts Open (Studios), today the studio doors are open to the public, we are free to wander in and out of places ordinarily off limits. Students will be on hand to answer questions, their work is on display and in many cases for sale. Let’s get started.

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We begin our journey at the Cranbrook Museum of Art (1942), water sprays skyward from Carl Milles Orpheus fountain, water ripples with sunlight in the shallow pool. Inside the museum visitors fill the galleries; Open Studios includes free admission to the art and science museums. I tend to meander in art museums, I let my eyes be my guide; from the colorful lucite display to the metal wall sculpture to the art of projected images I travel this way and that way. I enjoy the photographic light boxes, whimsical paintings and giant canvases, I find architectural models fascinating. On the lower level we check out Stephen Frykholm’s Essence Of Summer posters for the annual Herman Miller Picnic. They truly capture the essence of summer; fruits, vegetables, popsicles, red-checked tablecloths, sunny days; I bet the picnics were quite the shindig. When we finish both museum floors we head out to the studios.

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The Cranbrook Academy of Art is an independent, graduate degree-granting institution offering an intense studio-based experience where 10 artists-in-residence mentor 150 graduate students for a full-time 2-year studio-based study–no classes, no grades. At the end of the 2-year period students prepare a written Masters Statement and exhibit their work in the Graduate Degree Exhibition at Cranbrook Art Museum. Individual studios, shared spaces, production facilities, critique rooms, social areas and kitchens create a unique peer-to-peer community. Let’s start in the painting studio. Interiors are stark white, providing zero distraction from the art on display; from realism to abstract, small to large, multi-hued to monotone the work is amazing. Kris speaks to one artist about her work, she has taken old photographs and turned them into paintings, specifically focusing on one character in the scene, creating a whole new perspective. Katherine Adkins pieces are intriguing; bold colors and designs, funky shapes and textures, bumpy, puffy, shiny, I want to reach out and touch them.

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Here’s what I’m going to do. Kris has taken plenty of photos,  I’ll take you on a walk through studios and campus and let the photographs speak for themselves; not to mention I can’t remember which pieces are where… The next building over is the sculpture studios. Artists strike up conversations, visitors eagerly participate; we are literally surrounded by art. We are as captivated by the architecture as we are the art. Leaded glass windows open to grassy squares or courtyards, thoughtfully placed buildings form connections from one to the other. A cool spring breeze drifts in, natural light floods the space. Up stairs, down stairs, narrow halls, each turn rewarding us with another spectacular view or the outstanding creativity of artists.

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We make our way to 2D, 3D and Print studios, always glad to escape to the outdoor, enchanted kingdom that is Cranbrook. Formal courtyards, brick walkways, ornamental gates, porticos, brick and stone arches. We move from one place to another going from a closed space to an open space, from a narrow tunnel to a wide expanse. We follow arrows and signs from on building to the next, in a basement studio artists are happy to see we found our way to their space, I love the piece on the floor, it looks like a glittery land fairies would like to live. Large windows, artist sinks and storage spaces are a constant reminder these buildings were intentionally created for artists. The Academy of Art was officially sanctioned in 1932 with Eliel Saarinen as President. The artists who lived and worked inside these walls truly changed the design world; Carl Milles, Eero Saarinen, Ray and Charles Eames, Florence Knoll, Harry Bertoia, Marshall Fredericks, Jack Lenor Larsen, Niels Diffrient, Duane Hanson, Nick Cave, just to name a few. Some of the greatest design talents the United States has had in modern times lived here, worked here.

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The Print Media studios are closer to Lone Pine Rd, I enjoy seeing the personal side of the artists in the way they decorate their space; the Desk-O-Matic emblem is super-cool. Water colors, mixed media pieces, each telling a story, sending a message. Cabinets and drawers hold a stockpile of supplies. A group of students has moved outside to drink in the long-awaited spring air; student works are displayed on sidewalks. The Architecture studio is a good distance from where we are, we enjoy the stunning landscape as we walk. The space is somewhat garage-like, concrete floors and huge open spaces, large lights hang above work spaces. Tree stumps rest on the floor, wooden legs and table tops are on display. The Hangar Photo building is really crowded, Kris and I both like photography.

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We walk across campus paying careful attention to architectural details, even the doors are gorgeous. We pause at the Triton pool, I could look at it for hours, Kris photographs it from all angles. New Studios (2002) includes Metalsmithing, Ceramics and Fiber, it’s the last building on our list. Ceramics are my favorite, students create everything from utility items to decorative pieces. One artist has a lovely selection of bowls and cups decorated with an airbrushing of blue, another has a variety of figurines and faces that make me wonder what they’re thinking. It’s getting warmer as we walk, we’re in the area where they fire the pieces; kilns range in size and shape from floor-models to walk-ins. It’s too warm here. I have a soft spot for the stuffed animals often found in Fiber departments, these are quite hugable. We end with the metalsmithing floor, it’s a wonder what they can do with metal.

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We are having a late lunch at Market North End on a quiet section of Old Woodward. We have been by here so many times and never knew what the restaurant was called, the only visible signage is for the ABOOD Law Firm. There are open tables on the screened-in-patio, it feels good to sit. The hostess recommends their pizza, who am I to argue? Ice cold glasses of water hit the spot as we wait for the food– which doesn’t take long. The Market Chopped Salad comes out first; chopped tomato, cucumber, radishes, onion, jalapeno, radicchio, tossed with a little lemon juice and evoo. I like that everything is chopped the same size, it’s so fresh, delicious. The Quattaro pizza has a white sauce topped with ham, caramelized onion and cracked egg. I cut up the egg and evenly distribute it among the slices. We eat at remarkable speed, when finished there isn’t a crumb left. This is the first time we’ve had an egg on our pizza and I have to say it is quite good.

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It has been a remarkable day, going to a place we know so well yet seeing an entirely new side. George Booth hoped to create something of lasting value and significance, a place that would elevate the lives of those near there, those who lived there, visited there; I say he succeeded beautifully.

One Response to “Cranbrook: Artiful…”

  1. Julie Angst May 14, 2018 at 6:39 pm #

    Love the pictures! The brick work is amazing. So many different art pieces. I have to go, it’s been so many years.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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