DIA eNews May 2011

In This Issue
Director's Letter
Detroit Film Theater
DIA Goes West
Grandparents Day
News and Notes

Director's Letter

Graham W.J. Beale, Director 

My earliest experience with an art museum was either the Tate Gallery (now Tate Britain) or the National Gallery in London when I was seven or eight years old. My sister or I occasionally accompanied my father on his periodic trips to London and, as the museums were (and still are) free, we would visit one or both of these great picture galleries. I can still recall the sense of wonder I felt when I realized that all this amazing art was there, available to me or anyone else who just walked in. The "old" Tate was then both the national collection of British art as well as international modern and contemporary art and, as I've mentioned before, my father--an amateur landscape painter--went there to see the likes of Turner and Constable. But we also looked at the modern stuff, where he made no bones about not understanding what made a conglomeration of circles, lines, and oblongs qualify as art. Still, we talked about it and, as we now know from our own research and experience at the DIA, conversation between family members about a work of art is among the most powerful devices for engaging visitors with that art.

The other way children mainly encounter art in museums is through the school field trip, and here the situation is a little more ambiguous in that the visit is obligatory. When I'm out and about in the galleries, I regularly hear one of two statements from adults: the first asserting that the last time they visited the DIA was with a school group; the second that such a trip was the first time they visited and that they've been coming back regularly ever since. We do much to encourage school visits and, as well as full- and part-time staff members, have a cadre of dedicated volunteers who are specialists in facilitating engagement in and interpretation of the art on view. Most of us think of art museums as places of hushed restraint, but I love it when the DIA is packed with young people creating a considerable amount of noise. This is particularly the case at this time of the year when it's not uncommon to see Prentis Court, and--in good weather--the Loggia converted into lunchrooms. School-bus schedules tend to dictate that these groups will be gone by 1:30 p.m. or so, leaving a few hours for older visitors to experience the art in relative tranquility.

The DIA also takes art programs to schools through visits from our teaching volunteers, who conduct in-classroom discussions using illustrations of objects from the collection as the starting point. In fact, with our Thinking Through Art program, a volunteer visits the same class eight times to ensure an in-depth exploration of art. And, each year, the DIA works with a couple of school districts that have no art programs at all to provide multiple interpretive and art-making classes at the DIA. Delivering art to people is our ultimate mission, and the earlier we can do this the better--hence our emphasis on youth and the efforts we make to create a museum experience that will be, not the last one for a long, long time, but the first of many through a long, long life.

Graham Beal Signature
Graham W. J. Beal

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Charles Culver, Bobcat


ZooIt's A Zoo In Here! Prints and Drawings of Animals

Through September 25, 2011
Schwartz Galleries of Prints and Drawings

Charles Culver, Fireflies, Torch Lake, Michigan 

Charles Culver, American; Fireflies, Torch Lake, Michigan, 1956; watercolor. Gift of Ford Motor Company


Of the one hundred artists represented in this exhibition, there are none better at catching the most characteristic features and behaviors of his animal subjects than the oft-overlooked Michigan painter Charles Culver (1908-67). Six of his large watercolors of captivating creatures are on view throughout the galleries.

One of these works, Fireflies, Torch Lake, Michigan (left), serves as a revealing summation of Culver's interests in art and approach to subject matter. While he is well known for his sensitive and colorful depictions of animals, he was also a dedicated landscapist. He lived for many years in Bellaire, just east of Torch Lake some 250 miles northwest of Detroit. Culver's rendition of a swarm of insects glowing in the dimness of dusk effectively conveys the essence of this familiar sight, making it easy to imagine what inspired him: the common but utterly marvelous display of exceptional light in the darkening summer night along a birch-lined lakeshore.

Another night scene deals with four very active long-tailed mice, known as teetotalers, at play under a crescent moon. In other works, the quiet beauty of a deer at rest is reinforced by its serene pose, and the spectacle of a red-faced goose is presented with elegantly curving lines that emphasize the round, bright head tucked into its soft white and black body. Another of Culver's strong suits was his gentle sense of humor, which comes through magnificently in The Bee, a super-sized 20-by-30-inch bug, and the ferocious face of the Bobcat (above) that roars at viewers with just a touch of menace.

Culver eventually enjoyed success as an artist, teacher, and critic in Detroit, but his early years tell a classic tale of inspired struggle. He worked hard at day jobs in order to paint at night and on weekends. Despite the hard economic times of the Great Depression, Culver managed to get formal training in Chicago, where he studied commercial art in the 1920s. He drew cartoons for local newspapers, including the Royal Oak Tribune. He furthered his income by playing the tenor sax and clarinet whenever opportunity permitted. Most importantly, he developed interesting working agreements with both General Motors and Ford that allowed him to work as long as it took to accumulate enough money to take off for long stretches of time--sometime years-to paint at his home in Bellaire, returning to his automotive job when funds ran low. He maintained these working arrangements into the 1940s.

In the 1950s Culver began teaching at what is today Detroit's College for Creative Studies (then the Art School of the Society of Arts and Crafts). His voice and influence reached a broader audience through his work as editor of Topic and Talk, the official publication of the art school. In 1966-67, he was the art critic for the Detroit Free Press.

Above: Charles Culver, American; Bobcat, 1956; watercolor. Gift of Ford Motor Company

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An Intuitive Eye: André Kertész Photographs, 1914-69

Through May 29, 2011
Albert and Peggy de Salle Gallery of Photography

André Kertész "Shadows of the Eiffel Tower" 

André Kertész, American, born Hungary; Shadows of the Eiffel Tower, Paris, 1929; gelatin silver print. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Noel Levine


There's only one month remaining to see this exhibition celebrating the photographic achievements of André Kertész (1894-1985), whose groundbreaking work achieved a delicate balance between technical perfection and lyrical beauty. The photographer originated a style that combined the "snapshot" compositions of photojournalism with the aesthetic sensibilities of early twentieth-century modernism. Among the nearly 100 photographs taken in Hungary, Paris, and New York are such iconic images as a view of the Eiffel Tower shot from a high vantage point, resulting in flattened spatial relationships and an abstract patterning of the structure (left). The exhibition also includes a section on the work of his contemporaries--Eugčne Atget, Ilse Bing, and Brassaď--to place Kertész's photographs in the context of the times.

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Annual Detroit Public Schools Student Exhibition

Through June 5, 2011
Walter Gibbs Learning Center in the Wayne & Joan Webber Education Wing

Detroit Public Schools Student Exhibition, Portrait 

Chelsey Clay, Honesty, watercolor. Cass Technical High School, Grade 10


More than 450 works of art, by students in kindergarten through twelfth grade, are on view in the seventy-fourth Annual Detroit Public Schools Student Exhibition. Approximately 770 creations were submitted for consideration. Those selected include drawings, ceramics, collage, fibers, and jewelry.

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Detroit Film Theatre

DFT Main Floor 

The DFT returns Friday, June 9, with 13 Assassins, a new, action-packed Japanese samurai epic. But the theater is not completely dark during May. Check out the acclaimed Mosaic Youth Theater's world premiere presentation of Northern Lights 1966. Written by Michael Dinwiddie, this original play with music focuses on a dramatic student protest at Detroit's Northern High School in 1966. The provocative show, set in the prelude to Detroit's turbulent 1967 summer, tells the inspiring story of a group of Detroit students who joined forces to demand educational equality. While based on events forty-five years ago, the issues explored in Northern Lights 1966 are as current as today's headlines. The play is performed in the DFT auditorium May 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, and 22. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.

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The DIA Goes West

David Smith at LACMA

Photo by John Steele 


The DIA has taken Los Angeles by storm. Two museum objects are on loan to exhibitions there, and one, Cubi I by David Smith, is on banners across the city promoting the show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

David Smith: Cubes and Anarchy brings together more than 100 works, including the largest group of Smith's monumental Cubis and Zigs in at least twenty-five years, placing these geometric abstractions in context with the artist's earlier works. The DIA's piece, as its name suggests, was the first of Smith's Cubi sculptures. The exhibition remains on view at LACMA through July 24.

At the nearby J. Paul Getty Museum, the DIA's eighteenth-century, silver Toilette Set is part of the exhibition Paris: Life & Luxury, which features objects as diverse as furniture and clocks, dressing gowns and jewelry, musical instruments and games that are representative of elite Parisian society. Like the DIA's third-floor decorative arts court, the exhibition is organized by hours of the day and how pieces would be used. The nineteen-piece Toilette Set, one of the few such sets still intact, contains all the items deemed necessary for a lady's morning toilette of applying cosmetics, combing hair, and getting dressed. The exhibition moves to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts after its run at the Getty concludes in August.

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Grandparents Day

Grandparents Day 2011 

The DIA celebrates its first Grandparents Day on Saturday, May 14, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with free admission for grandchildren, with adult general admission or DIA membership, and kid-friendly activities. Enjoy a puppet performance of Little Red Riding Hood at 11 a.m. or 2 p.m., make a folk art toy together at our drop-in workshop, and have a complimentary picture taken. And don't forget to check out It's a Zoo in Here! Prints and Drawings of Animals, an exhibition designed with kids in mind.

Registration for Grandparents Day is in the DFT lobby. Free valet parking is available at the circle drive off John R, so bring the grandkids and have a grand day at the DIA.

Click here for more information or call the Membership HelpLine at 313.833.7971.

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Gift Giving Made Easy

Spring is a time for many special occasions--Mother's Day, Father's Day, graduations, and weddings--and the DIA has several suggestions to make your gift buying easier. Give the gift of art with a membership to the DIA at a special price: affiliate-level membership, regularly $180, is $125 (online discount code PMC125); Family Plus, regularly $110, now $88 (PCM88); and Companion, $80, now $64 (PCM64).

Or honor those special someones with a donation to the museum in their name. With the DIA Tribute and Memorial Program, a card is sent on your behalf to the individual or family being honored, and you receive a receipt for your tax-deductible contribution.

If you're looking for a more traditional gift, it's double-discount days in the museum shop and online through Sunday, May 8. Members receive a 20 percent discount on purchases instead of the usual 10 percent.

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The city of Detroit has closed the Farnsworth Underground Garage. The garage has long been in disrepair and more than half of the parking spaces are not useable. Please park in the Cultural Center lot, located on John R behind the museum. And look for electric-vehicle charging stations in that lot sometime this summer.

Research Library

CBS Detroit.com has named the DIA's Research Library as one of the city's best that are open to the public. The library contains more than 185,000 volumes and over 200 periodical subscriptions. Resources include DIA publications, auction catalogues, catalogues raisonnés, and national/international museum publications and periodicals. Visitors must contact the library to set up an appointment at libraryadmin@dia.org or 313.833.3460. Also on the list of best Detroit libraries are the main Detroit Public Library, the Wayne State University Library System, and the Sladen Library and Center for Health Information Resources at Henry Ford Hospital.

International Museum Day

Wednesday, May 18, is International Museum Day, and the Toledo Museum of Art is marking the occasion with a discussion among three international museum directors, including Graham Beal, on museums and memory. The Detroit Institute of Arts, the Toledo Museum of Art, and the Cleveland Museum of Art are all led by foreign-born or -trained directors: Irish-born Brian Kennedy, director in Toledo; Candian David Franklin in Cleveland; and the DIA's Beal, from Great Britain. The three join in a a wide-ranging discussion on the state of these grand "temples of art," moderated by art journalist and blogger Judith Dobrzynski. The talk begins at 6 p.m. and is free.

Cirque: Detroit Unmasked

Founders Junior Council, a DIA auxiliary, is hosting its annual Cirque fundraiser on Saturday, May 21, from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m., at the DIA. This year's theme is Detroit Unmasked, which takes its inspiration from the renewal, revival, and restoration of the city, with a focus on the museum as a cultural beacon. After several years at other venues, the event returns to the DIA, complete with edgy, urban décor that provides a striking contrast to the museum's classically inspired architecture. Only 500 tickets are available, so early reservations are recommended. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here. All proceeds go toward helping the DIA continue to provide the community with imaginative, high-quality programs and exhibitions.

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Detroit Institute of Arts
5200 Woodward Avenue
Detroit, Michigan 48202

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