Art Works Blog

Slideshow: Detroit

April 2, 2010
Washington, DC

Rocco?s Art Works trip to Michigan on March 22 and 23 was a study in contrasts. He saw art in a rural setting and a big city environment. He saw spectacular new buildings not far from abandoned and deteriorating structures. And he saw an arts community with enormous challenges that nevertheless remains resilient, hardworking, passionate, and optimistic. Following are some snaps from the day in Detroit taken by Elayne Gross.


At about 11:30 AM, Rocco and hosts piled out of the van for a tour of the A. Alfred Taubman Center for Design Education, home of the College for Creative Studies (CSS) and the Henry Ford Academy. The building was constructed in 1927 for General Motors by Albert Kahn, then reigning architect of reinforced concrete manufacturing buildings and the designer for many of Detroit?s automotive facilities. The building housed GM?s first research center and over the years saw the birth of hundreds of patents. In 1958, the school of the Society of Arts and Crafts moved in, and, four years later, that school officially became a college. In a beautifully renovated space, CSS now offers Bachelors and Masters degrees in different design majors.

With Rocco in a classroom at CCS is its president, Rick Rogers. Clay models, like the one in the background were everywhere in the room, evidence of young designers in the midst of crafting the vehicles of tomorrow.

A favorite Rocco-ism is the phrase ?poster child,? which he bestows on organizations or projects that embody visionary thinking and get him charged up about possibilities of art. One of those poster children is the Henry Ford Academy, an art and design middle and high school that combines academics and a thorough grounding in art and design.

At Henry Ford Academy, Rocco met ninth graders Haley Simmons and Chris Jones who showed him the results of a recent class assignment that challenged them to design a chair around a favorite fruit or vegetable. Haley chose asparagus as her inspiration while Chris settled on a pear (seen behind Chris?s right shoulder).

Seventh grader Gabrielle Dapremont had a different assignment---to design a unique shoe. Her drawing is on the right. She was also required to layout the shoe?s measurements, construction, colors, and materials in a schema seen below the drawing.  Look out Manolo Blahnik! You have competition.


Rocco?s host for the day in Detroit was the Kresge Foundation and its president Rip Rapson.  At a lunch at CSS, 15 professionals from the arts, education, and business worlds gathered with Rocco and Rip to talk about the creative economy and the educational opportunities it offers.  Conversation threads included arts education assessment and what businesses need and the arts can provide in training the next generation of workers.

At the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), Rocco toured the galleries with executive director Luis Croquer. The exhibition they saw in this former car dealership was For the blind man in the dark room looking for the black cat that isn?t there. In the words of the show?s curators, the exhibition ?celebrates the experience of not-knowing and unlearning. Embracing a spirit of curiosity, this show is dedicated to the playfulness of being in the dark.?

Add new comment