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.
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.
Cranbrook Institute of Science (CIS) has long held a special place in the hearts of many area schoolchildren. Field trips, weekend family outings, and onsite demonstrations in schools and community centers are a part of the fabric of the metro Detroit K-12 educational experience.
A recent discovery in our collections furthered my appreciation of the Institute’s educational outreach and its commitment to ensuring access to the world of science for all its surrounding communities. It all started with the folder titled “Pontiac Area Urban League, 1988” in the Institute of Science Director’s Records.
The Pontiac Area Urban League (PAUL), was founded in 1950 as an affiliate of the National Urban League. An integral part of PAUL’s mission was to improve educational opportunities for underserved residents. Through its Education Committee, they partnered with Pontiac Public Schools in the 1980s to empower students of color to seek equity in science and math education by providing real-world role models and encouraging parent involvement. In 1988 this effort took the form of a project that focused specifically on middle school students and lead PAUL to approach Cranbrook Institute of Science. The resulting partnership formed the basis of CIS’s relationship with students in the School District of the City of Pontiac that continues to this day.
Correspondence in the CIS Director’s Recordssuggests that CIS had already been considering educational outreach efforts to Pontiac residents. Janet M. Johnson, Director of Education, states in a 1988 memo to Director Robert M. West regarding the possible partnership with PAUL: “This may be another avenue for us to pursue interests with Pontiac.” West expresses his “delight” a few months later in a letter addressed to PAUL’s Interim Director, Jaqueline Washington:
In commemoration of this significant day, Juneteenth, I thought we’d look back at one of many compelling stories in Cranbrook’s history. In the summer of 1970, Horizons-Upward Bound (HUB) offered four new electives that reflected the experimental nature of a project in its sixth year of operation. These electives allowed for innovation and creative thought around topics of particular relevancy to HUB students, investigating issues that still resonate fifty years later.
Black Creative Writing, taught by Highland Park Community College English instructor Stephen D. Chennault, involved readings, examinations of concepts, and self-directed writing. Students surveyed a Langston Hughes edited short story collection and works by the Black Arts Movement poet, Don L. Lee (later known as Haki Madhubuti). They also explored Black awareness, the role of the Black professional writer, and created skits centered on Black life, in what Chennault describes as a “careful observation of their niche in today’s America.”
The Black Contributions course was co-taught by Wayne State University interns, Ervin Brinker and Fred Massey, and grew out of the Black History course of the two previous summers. Refocused with a more contemporary slant, students studied organizations such as the Black Panther Party, the Student Non-Violent Coordination Committee, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Reporting on the course, Brinker and Massey observed that “both instructors and students were sensitized to the realization that solutions to racial problems are imbedded in institutional living patterns of long standing, protected by mazes of barrier that must be recognized and understood if they are to be nullified.”
Law was team taught by Detroit attorney Michael Brady and University of Wisconsin law student Norman Prance. Half of class time focused on criminal law, which included examination of Yale Sociology Professor Albert J. Reiss’ 1967 study of police brutality and discussion of the Wayne County Juvenile Court. The subject culminated in a field trip to the Detroit Recorders Courtroom of Judge George Crockett Jr., a civil rights advocate known for confronting the practice of race-based sentencing.
In the course, Power, developed by HUB founder and director Ben M. Snyder, students explored the idea of power through a combination of contemporary theory and current realities. Stemming from two works: Adolf Berle’s 1969 Power and Nathan Wright’s 1968 Black Power and Urban Unrest, the course addressed complicated regional situations, such as the redistricting of Detroit schools. When replying to a question regarding the value of the course to his future, one student remarked, “As long as I am more aware of the American way of working power, it should make me more alert.”
A tradition since 1967, the Literary Magazine, a sampling of writing and art produced by HUB students, is perhaps the most important summation of the student experience. Against the backdrop of the civil rights movement, national Vietnam War protests, and the beginnings of an economic downturn that would hit the Detroit metro area hard, the Summer 1970 issue reflects powerful emotions. It’s clear to see that these four thought-provoking electives left a profound effect on students’ views of American society and their role in it. With titles like Discrimination, Revolution, Black Power, Choice of Colors, The Man, The Militant, and Pride, the poignancy of their voices is striking and remarkably germane to events, both then and today.
–Deborah Rice, Head Archivist, Cranbrook Archives Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research
Sometimes, what appears to be a simple question doesn’t have an easy answer in the archives. By combining forces with colleagues, and looking in places you might not first suspect, you can ideally turn a boggling question into a rewarding quest. Provided, of course, you can solve the mystery! Happily, this was recently the case.
When contacted by a Kingswood School graduate about the origins of a certain sculpture that had graced the Green Lobby in the 1960s-1970s, I had two names to go on: Suki and Pam Stump Walsh. Was either of these the name of the sculptor and was the sculpture even still there? After checking several possible sources in the archives, it was time for a field trip to Kingswood. There she was opposite the green stairs, just as she had been described to me: a bronze sculpture of a girl, sitting cross-legged, head bowed, reading a book. I’d answered part of the question: she was still there.
And much to my delight there was also a plate tacked to the sculpture’s wooden pedestal. It read: “In Remembrance, Suzanne Anderson Stenglein, Class of 1947.”
Could this be Suki?
Back in Archives, I found a Suzanne Anderson in the 1947 Kingswood yearbook, Woodwinds. Next to her picture, this description: “That dashing station wagon, that’s always on the go, beautiful taste in clothes, and exciting vacations make Suki the ideal senior for every underclassman. Her pertness, her nose, and her spirit, that help to create her charm, match perfectly her conversational ability on all subjects from Broadway to baseball.”
I still didn’t know if this was the sculptor, or if it was Pam Stump, who is perhaps best known at Cranbrook for her work, Jane: Homage to Duchamp in the Kingswood courtyard. It certainly appeared to be Stump’s style. Associate Registrar Leslie Mio found a listing in Cranbrook Cultural Properties records for Suki, described as a patinated bronze sculpture attributed to Pam Stump.
Detroit native M. Pamela Stump graduated from Kingswood School in 1946. After attending the University of Michigan College of Architecture and Urban Planning for one year, she left to study sculpture under Marshall Fredericks in his Saginaw studio. Twenty-three years after leaving Kingswood, Stump, now Pamela Stump Walsh (she married Cranbrook School 1944 graduate, David E. Walsh), returned to teach sculpture. She retired in 1990, but continued creating and showing her own work throughout the state and internationally.
I appeared to have my answer, but I wanted definitive proof, and, ideally, a date. Back to Kingswood School. This time, with the help of Associate Archivist Laura MacNewman, I found the artist’s signature, and, a date!
End of story, right? Not quite. I still wondered about the sculpture’s origins. The Archives, thankfully, hold the M. Pamela Stump Papers. Consisting mainly of her Cranbrook Kingswood Chronicle, a memoir she titled, “Ubi Ignes Est or Where’s the Fire?” it provided the final details.
Stump made eighteen sculptures for Cranbrook while on the Kingswood faculty. Shortly after she started, in 1969, she was commissioned by the Class of 1947 to create a sculpture in memory of their classmate Suzanne Anderson Stenglein, who had died prematurely the year before. Stump refers to the bronze sculpture of Suzanne as Girl Reading or Suki. It was specifically designed to fit in the niche just outside the Headmistress’ office, directly opposite the staircase in the Green Lobby, and purposely placed on a revolving wooden pedestal so it could be turned 180-degrees to face the wall and enable examination of all the various textures and symbols on its surface. Stump writes, “On her body are many symbols of her life. This was easy because I had known her at Kingswood and in Saginaw.” Here you see this symbolism, along with the names of Suzanne’s schools before she came to Kingswood; her initials, S.A.; and her nickname, found on the crown of her head:
To bring things full circle: a close examination of negatives in the archives collections (identified only as “Kingswood Interiors”) found period images of the sculpture:
I also learned from The Birmingham Eccentric, that Suki was the daughter of Goebel Brewing Company President Edwin John Anderson. She grew up in Saginaw, where she presumably met her husband, Harold Stenglein. The pair were married at Christ Church Cranbrook in 1955, and made their own home in Saginaw. At this juncture, little else is known about the girl behind the sculpture’s name.