Sketching to Jazz and Judo: the Young People’s Art Center

Did you know that Cranbrook Art Museum’s educational partnerships with surrounding communities date back over sixty years? Long before the current museum trend of interactive educational programs for youth audiences, the Academy of Art and the Junior League of Birmingham had an idea:  the Young People’s Art Center (YPAC).

Young People’s Art Center logo, from the 1962 enrollment form. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

The year was 1958, and the Museum had recently changed names to the Academy of Art Galleries, shifting focus to feature more contemporary art practices. With that, came the desire to encourage young visitors to express their own artistic voices—participatory education, rather than simply art appreciation. Documenting the program’s first year, a June 1959 Detroit News Pictorial Magazine feature noted that YPAC “is fast gaining a national reputation for its lively approach to art education.”

In particular, it was Henry Booth (Academy Board of Trustees Chairman), Wallace Mitchell (Head of Galleries), and Zoltan Sepeshy (Academy Director) that approached the Junior League with a plan. In a 1957 report by Mitchell during the Center’s development phase, he states, “ The personnel of the Cranbrook Academy of Art has become increasingly aware of the growing country-wide interest in the visual arts and has long wished to more directly participate in the fostering and guiding of this interest as expressed in our community.” Seeking support from the Junior League, this “unique opportunity to bring to the children of Oakland County an integrated program in art education which concerns itself with the totality of the art experience” was green-lighted for the following year.

Children watch a judo demonstrator as part of a class exercise. Erik Strylander, photographer. From the article “Sketching to Jazz and Judo,” Detroit News Pictorial Magazine, June 28, 1959.

A perfect partnership was formed. The Academy would provide leadership, through the support of its trustees, director, and faculty; the Junior League would provide the necessary finances. Naturally, with so many talented artists on campus, there was no lack of creativity or helping hands! Junior League members were also heavily involved, providing volunteer docents to conduct gallery tours and assist with classes, both of which were located on the ground level of the Museum below the Academy Library.

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Photo Friday: Archival Preservation

Since it is Preservation Week, today’s Photo Friday features an image from one of the collections we have been working to stabilize. For the past few weeks my colleague, Belinda Krencicki, and I have photographed and captured metadata for the watercolor paintings, pen and pencil drawings, and pastels in the James Scripps Booth and John McLaughlin Booth Papers. This information will be used to catalog the items in our Collections Management system. In addition to documenting the works, we re-housed all of the items–placing them in archival folders and interleaving each work to protect it.

Pencil and pastel sketch of the exterior of the Detroit News building, James Scripps Booth, 1917.

Pencil and pastel sketch of the exterior of the Detroit News building, James Scripps Booth, 1917.

The artwork ranges from pastel landscapes, to portrait studies, to automobile racing. The image above is one of my favorites – a sketch of the Detroit News building. I hope you enjoy it too!

Gina Tecos, Archivist

Princess Di’s Dresses in the Archives?

At Cranbrook Archives, much of the work we do—processing manuscripts, arranging documents, scanning photographs—all have a rather similar procedure: repeat.

There is plenty of magnificence to be found in the mundane though. We don’t mind the monotonous details because it’s this repetitive process that wins us the occasional gem. Today, while going through Cranbrook’s historic exhibition brochures printed between the 1940s and 1990s, I came across an image of Princess Diana.

“Five Dresses from the Collection of Diana, Princess of Wales” was an exhibition held at the Cranbrook Art Museum from March 10-15, 1998. The royal dresses were premiered at Cranbrook before becoming part of a worldwide tour that traveled to Russia, Japan, Australia, and England through 1999. This selection from the Princess’s wardrobe was shown in conjunction with the “Art on the Edge of Fashion” exhibition held at Cranbrook at the same time.


Cranbrook Art Museum exhibition brochure, 1988. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

The five dresses were from the private collection of Ellen Louise Petho, a commercial interior designer who, incidentally, was the parent of a Kingswood School alumna. Susan Whitall’s press release in the Detroit News explained how the princess sold dozens of her dresses to benefit AIDs charities just months before her death in 1997. She wrote, “Petho scooped up the five frocks for what became, after Diana’s death, a bargain basement price—less than $100,000.”

The collection included a pleated pink silk tunic dinner dress that Diana wore at the Gala Evening for the English National Ballet and the long jade and black evening dress worn to a dinner at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto in 1986. Four of the five dresses were designed by Catherine Walker and the “piece de resistance,” designed by Bruce Oldfield, was the red dress the princess wore at the premiere of the motion picture “Hot Shots” in 1991.

The Archives are a trove of Cranbrook history. We love rediscovering the hidden materials—it’s what makes the repetition meaningful.

Danae Dracht, Archives Assistant

Photo Friday: Reporting the News in Style

Archivists never know what we might run across during the course of our daily work, which is, of course, part of the allure of the job! Today it was a photo of W Stoddard White (1913-1972) from the Lee A White Papers. (No typo – neither man used a period after his initial!)  Lee White (Stoddard’s father) was a personal friend and confidante of George Booth’s from the Detroit News. White followed Booth to Cranbrook once Cranbrook School was opened and was on the Board of Directors, later becoming head of the public relations department for the community. Clearly Stoddard followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a news reporter after his graduation from UM in 1935. (Interestingly, while at UM, he was in Sigma Chi along with Edgar Guest Jr.)

Stoddard White, Detroit News Employee, Oct 1935. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives, Lee A White Papers.

Stoddard White, Detroit News Employee, Oct 1935. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives, Lee A White Papers.

This photo caught my attention because of the content – what a great image of young Stoddard, as a Detroit News reporter, seated at his typewriter in what was likely the Detroit News Lockheed Vega airplane. Just one more reason I love my job!

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Hugh Ferriss: Visionary Illustrator

I came across Hugh Ferriss’s book The Metropolis of Tomorrow while assisting Judy Dyki, Director of the Cranbrook Academy of Art Library, in curating an exhibit of some of our rare and special collection books for the Bloomfield Township Public Library.  Ferriss (1889-1962) was a degreed architect, but he was most sought after for his architectural renderings of buildings. He developed an idiosyncratic style, often depicting buildings at night, seemingly enveloped in a kind of mist, with streetlights and the rays of the moon serving as illumination. I find Ferriss’s work intriguing because his drawings were so different from the typical architectural renderings of the 1920s to 1950s. The gothic yet futurist sensibility displayed in his work has influenced contemporary filmmakers like Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan. Ferriss has several connections to Cranbrook, the first being the drawing of the Detroit News Building that is in the collection of the Cranbrook Art Museum.

Hugh Ferriss in his studio, ca ? Photographer Stadler. Courtesy Creative Commons.

Hugh Ferriss in his studio, ca 1925. Photo by Stadler, New York. Courtesy Creative Commons.

The history of the Detroit News Building drawing is an interesting one. The J.L. Hudson Company, in honor of the company’s 46th anniversary and the opening of the new Detroit Institute of Arts building in 1927, commissioned Hugh Ferriss to create a series of architectural renderings of Detroit buildings, both extant and proposed, that contributed to Detroit’s rapidly changing skyline.  Twenty-two of these drawings where exhibited in the windows of Hudson’s downtown store in August 1927. Among these were two renderings of Eliel Saarinen’s proposed plan for a new Detroit Civic Center complex.  Also included was this drawing of the Detroit News Building. The Detroit News building, which opened in 1917, was commissioned by George Gough Booth, and designed by architect Albert Kahn.

Drawing of the Detroit News Building. Courtesy Cranbrook Art Museum (CAM1955.400)

Drawing of the Detroit News Building. Courtesy Cranbrook Art Museum. (CAM1955.400)

Booth, president of the Detroit News (and Cranbrook’s founder) purchased the drawing of the Detroit News Building directly from J.L. Hudson’s in October 1927 for the Academy of Art collections. (Accessions Book No. 1, Cranbrook Academy of Art).  To coinicide with the exhibition, J.L. Hudson Co. published a commemorative booklet entitled For a Greater Detroit, which contained Ferriss’s drawings and included editorials by various community leaders that discussed Detroit’s future. A copy of this booklet can be found in the Edsel Ford Office Papers at the Benson Ford Research Center. Ferriss’s drawing was transferred from the Academy of Art to the Art Museum in 1955, and is considered one of the museum’s “One Hundred Treasures”.

Stay tuned for a forthcoming blog post about Hugh Ferriss’s further connections to Cranbrook

Mary Beth Kreiner, Librarian, Cranbrook Academy of Art Library

Editor’s note: For additional information about the work of Hugh Ferriss, check out the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University.

Discoveries Around Campus

The dormers at Cranbrook House. Cranbrook Archives.

The dormers at Cranbrook House. Cranbrook Archives.

The staff at the Center for Collections and Research work closely with the Capital Projects and Facilities staff on campus restoration and repair projects. The archival staff often provides historical photographs, documentation, and architectural drawings to the project managers. Sometimes the staff makes interesting discoveries during the projects they are working on and share them with us.  The other day Craig Hoernschemeyer (Project Manager for Capital Projects) was in the archives looking for a historic photograph of a dormer window on the east addition (1918-1919) of Cranbrook House.  As luck would have it, he found one.  The following is from Craig:

“Today, when the copper roof was opened up on that dormer – center right in the photo [above]- we found a bunch of newspaper mixed in with the insulation. It was no surprise that it was The Detroit News, but it was dated the first day of winter, December 21, 1919. It was there during the original construction of the wing.”

Detroit News, 1919. Photo Craig Hoernschemeyer.

Detroit News, 21 Dec 1919. Photo Craig Hoernschemeyer.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

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