Behind-the-Scenes: Bringing Art, Science, and History to Cranbrook’s Tables

Eric Perry photographs work from Megha Gupta (CAA Ceramics 2023) alongside collections from the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Smith House and eggs from Cranbrook Institute of Science.

If you walked into Cranbrook House, Saarinen House, or Smith House this week, you might have noticed some surprising guests have arrived at the table. Your Center for Collections and Research team have been busy installing Brought to the Table, the fifth intervention of new work by Cranbrook Academy of Art students and Artists-in-Residence in our three historic homes.

This year’s virtual exhibition is a Cranbrook-wide collaboration that brings site-specific work from across the Academy’s eleven departments into conversation with objects from Cranbrook’s Cultural Properties, Art Museum, and Institute of Science collections.

Kiwi Nguyen (CAA Metals 2023), Iris Eichenberg (Metals Artist-in-Residence), and Kevin Adkisson (Center Curator) strategize in the Saarinen House studio.

Brought to the Table engages with the long tradition of functional art at Cranbrook and pairs new works of art with objects from the Cranbrook collections made for dining tables, coffee tables, desks, or side tables. Before the exhibition kicks off at the Virtual Opening and Lecture on March 27th, I’d like to give you a sneak peek at the exhibition process.

This was my first experience curating contemporary art and I was grateful to learn from my capable co-curators, Metalsmithing Artist-in-Residence (AIR) Iris Eichenberg and Center Curator Kevin Adkisson.

From planning with Kevin and Iris; coordinating with our wonderful Academy artists; selecting objects with colleagues at the Institute of Science and Art Museum; installing with the help of students; and assisting with photography, this exhibition took me all over the Cranbrook campus.

We were on the hunt for collections objects that meaningfully related to, challenged, or complemented the student submissions. You can see what we selected, and how we arranged our tablescapes, at the opening on March 27. But first, a look behind-the-scenes!

Andrew Gangidine (Cranbrook Institute of Science Curator of Earth and Space Sciences) demonstrates the fluorescent properties of calcite, willemite, scapolite, and wollastonite.

Once the new works of art from the students and Artist-in-Residences had been submitted, and we had pulled the related objects from the Cranbrook collections, we created vignettes atop tables in our historic houses. Photographer Eric Perry and his assistant Erik Henderson then documented the tablescapes.

Special thanks go to Academy students Kiwi Nguyen, Zena Segre, Eighteen Yuan, and Bonnie Xue, who helped us research, install, and think about the exhibition. For access and information to their vast collections, we have to thank Cranbrook Institute of Science Curator of Collections Cameron Wood and Curator of Earth and Space Sciences Andrew Gangidine and Cranbrook Art Museum Assistant Curator of Collections Kat Goffnett and Registrar Corey Gross.

Now that the making of the art, placing of objects, and photography is complete, we will use the photos to create the virtual exhibition, Brought to the Table. We look forward to sharing more with you on March 27th, and hope you enjoy the show!

Co-curators Kevin and Nina with the logical accessory for candlesticks: a fire extinguisher.
All Behind-the-Scenes photos courtesy Nina Blomfield and Kevin Adkisson.

Thank you to all the participating artists and to all the hands involved in bringing this exhibition to life!

—Nina Blomfield, The Decorative Arts Trust Marie Zimmermann Collections Fellow for Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research, 2021-2023

PS: In the meantime, you can see last year’s exhibition, Speculative Histories, on the Center’s website!

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