Arts and the City

by James Fawcett April 18, 2015 A

We visited a Cranbrook in Detroit, which was founded in 1904 by the Booth (a media mogul – the Murdoch of his era) it is an amazing 300-acre site with the original vision of a retreat type space devoted to Art and Education outside of the city.

In it’s present form it has a large school teaching children from 4 – 18 and a post graduate program, a gallery and library and wonderful grounds. It took many years to complete.

It highlights the difference between the early 1900’s through Detroit’s boom-time (the mid 1950’s) to the situation now Cranbrook is situated around ’16 mile’, a very wealthy suburb. It has produced some incredible artists, architects and designers including Eames, and the gallery holds in its vault (the coolest vault I have ever been in) some amazing classical pieces of furniture, which I personally loved looking at!

Cranbrook’s position now, both culturally and physically (within the city), highlights the former affluence of the city through its expression of art and creativity. Maslow reminds us that such art and creativity is a privilege which follows many other needs being met first ( see his Hierarchy of Need). Urban development does not start with the arts, but with water, shelter and other practicalities. Cranbrook seems to be an expression of the development of the Detroit in its ‘heyday’.

In many ways Cranbrook now feels slightly incongruent with the poverty in the city as it faces massive financial upheaval and so many of Detroit’s residents basic needs are not being met, but it is also a symbol of hope: a reminder that we can all create and find beauty when given the opportunity.