Monday, July 7, 2014

Many artists love the suburbs

Recently I read a tweet pushing the notion that artists gravitate to city cores. A linked article stated, "Artists are unlikely to move their garrets to subdivisions – their districts need to be close to the high-density commercial core to function properly." I shook my head. I haven't done a scientific survey but in my experience many fine artists make their home in a suburb of a nearby large city.

In the '60s I went to what is now called the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan. I loved that school and I admired my teachers – all successful artists in their own right.

Jay Holland lived in this neighbourhood.
I studied sculpture under the instruction of Jay Holland. Holland has been called the father of Detroit sculpture. With his powerful personality, he dominated the classroom and he did his best to mold students as he molded clay. His passion inspired students for 34 years. Holland lived in Oak Park. A suburb of Detroit.

Bruce Blyth lived in this suburban area.
Another instructor, Bruce Blyth, taught jewellery design. When my wife and I visited Bruce a few years ago, we found him living in a rather funky little bungalow in a neighbourhood I would guess was completely devoid of garrets. He lived in Livonia. A suburb of Detroit.

I could go on an on, listing artist after artist, all living in suburban communities, but I will stop with just one more example: Marshall Fredericks, best known to the average Detroiter as the man responsible for the Spirit of Detroit sculpture sitting at the foot of Woodward Ave in front of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center. Fredericks lived for many years in Birmingham, Michigan, with his wife Rosalind until his death in 1998.

Fredericks was a very successful artist. I believe he owned the former Kresge Estate located in the area. If he didn't own it, he certainly controlled it – at least according to one of his sons. I went to a party there, thrown by the son, where I discovered a scale model study of the Spirit of Detroit tucked away in the old coach house and stable. 

I asked the son if he was worried about getting noise complaints from the neighbours. He laughed and said no. The neighbours leased their property from his father Marshall Fredericks. There would be no complaints, I was assured. The great artist had woven himself deep into the suburban fabric.

In my experience, many artists enjoy the suburbs. In writing this piece I learned that when Bill Girard, Jay Holland, Chesley Odom, Gordon Orear, Bill Rauhauser, Robert Vigiletti and Tony Williams gathered to chat, the seven artists met at Borders in Birmingham – a suburb of Detroit.

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