Motor City Moments: The Detroit Institute of Arts

I spent my youth in the Detroit metropolitan area, and was born across the river in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. My mom, an artist who attended The Art School of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts in the 1940s, included us kids in many of her creative interests, which included frequent visits to the Detroit Institute of Arts. On my recent visit to Detroit, I wanted to see the new Bruce Weber photographic exhibit celebrating the people of this resilient and righteous American city. So I swung by for a glimpse, also saw a favorite court — and was introduced to a new (and controversial for some old-schoolers) interactive exhibit, bringing 18th-century French serving objects to life.


The original Beaux Arts-style building was built in 1927 in midtown Detroit.


“Gracehoper,” a sculpture by artist Tony Smith, flanks the museum building.


Our host, Elliot Broom, vice president of museum operations, stands in one of the great hall entrances.


Once seen, you don’t forget Diego Court, where Mexican muralist Diego Rivera painted “The Detroit Industry,” a tribute to the city’s manufacturing and labor force of the 1930s.


Rivera considered “The Detroit Industry” the best work of his career. Twenty-seven panels of work were painted in 11 months, from April 1932 to March 1933.


Original sketches of “The Detroit Industry” show the fascinating evolution from small drawings to enormous murals.


This piece of 18th-century French silver is used as the beginning of a contemporary interactive exhibit, which brings these pieces to life for a new generation of visitors.


A still from “Art of Dining,” an interactive video that’s a simulated sit-down dinner typical of an aristocratic French table, taking seated participants through an authentic menu of the time.



Such elaborate menus required porcelain serving pieces in a range of shapes and sizes. By the time the short video is done, what may have seemed like a dull old museum piece comes alive through its intended use and contextual setting.


The entrance to the Bruce Weber exhibit. No photos allowed, but I loved the exhibit! Go see for yourself; it runs until September 7, 2014.