This University of Michigan town is a true gem. During the school year the streets bustle with students, but come summer the pace slows. It’s a great time to poke around in galleries, museums and check out artists studios. Here’s a recap of a recent arty adventure…
Motawi Tileworks – Founded in 1992 by brother and sister Nawal and Karim Motawi. Nawal studied sculpture and ceramics at UM, learned tile-making at Pewabic Pottery in Detroit. She is the designer and Karim has since left the firm. The hand-made art tiles are made with local clays and glazes mixed on site using Nawal’s recipes. The gorgeous designs are strongly influenced by early 20th century decorative artists. Free factory tour, Tuesday 1 pm and Thursday 11 am. – Tileworks studio gallery, great deals at the Boneyard open M-F 10-5, Sat 10-3.
Kate Tremel Clay – Kate Tremel‘s beautiful organic shapes reminded me of flower petal formations, or nature’s filigree as seen in morels – dainty, fragile, light filled. Hand-built and functional, the pottery lamps, dishes and bowls are truly one of a kind. Kate has an MFA in ceramics from Cranbrook Academy of Art (Bloomfield Hills) and recently spent a year of study and work in Paris. You can visit her home studio as long as you make an appointment. When she speaks about her art, it’s like poetry. “Working with clay is not really a choice for me, but more of a compulsion. Its tactile qualities are seductive. The challenge of deconstructing the form by piercing the thin walls of the clay at their most fragile state is for me, an exercise in understanding the fleeting tenuousness of beauty itself. I find inspiration in the simplicity of the everyday pot, its history and the process of trying to find a fresh, modern interpretation.”
Yourist Studio Gallery
Owned by Kay Yourist, a potter who started out in the late 1970s. The gallery has resident artists and is a community studio workspace and a classroom. You can go there for instruction in pottery making by professionals.
U-M Landmarks – Kelsey Museum of Archaeology
A research museum since 1928, the museum houses a collection of 100,000 objects from ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt and the Near East. Permanent exhibits include wall painting from Pompeii, the Villa of Mysteries and there’s even a mummy.
Gerald Ford Library
This is a great archival resource with materials on U.S. domestic issues, foreign relations and political affairs during the Cold War era. There are more than 20 million pages of memos, letters and other docs. 500,000 AV items, photographs, videotapes, recording of speeches and press briefings. Core collection is the 1974-77 presidential papers of Gerald Ford and white house staff. Plus there are some personal papers of other gov’t officials. A permanent exhibit is The Remarkable Life and Times of Gerald and Betty Ford. I especially liked the transcript of Betty’s interview with 60 Minutes where she talks about drugs and premarital sex in a very down-to-earth manner. Then there’s the outraged letter from Maria Von Trapp (Sound of Music) saying Mrs. Ford’s remarks were “damaging to society.”
Willow Run Airport and Bomber Plant
Up up and away-hay! I couldn’t believe I got to go up in the Yankee Warrior B-25 that saw duty during WWII in Corsica. Even sat in the little plexiglass nose cone as we flew over the Big House (UM stadium).
The aviation museum is located at the Willow Run Airport in Washtenaw County just outside Ann Arbor. I learned about Michigan’s contribution to aviation history, especially how the automotive industry boosted the WWII effort. This was once the site of the Ford Motor Company’s Willow Run Bomber Plant. Built by Ford to serve as the airfield for the plant in 1941 it began producing B-24 Liberator bombers in 1942. Between ‘42 and ‘45 it produced 8,685 of these planes. At its peak it was the largest industrial facility in the world and was the first aircraft manufacturing complex to use Ford’s automotive mass production method. It employed more than 42,000 people (50 per cent women) and produced a B-24 every 59 minutes. This was where the term Rosie the Riveter was coined. Detroit’s automotive industry was a major contributor to the Allies winning the war. In the 1950s GM took over the Willow Run facility using it for a GM Powertrain factory and engineering. They closed the plant in 2010 (bankruptcy).
The museum opened in 1981 but a fire in 2004 destroyed everything except the B-17, C-47 and B-25 flyable aircraft. The Yankee Air Museum Collections & Exhibits opened in 2010 and it contains 47,000 square feet of permanent and changing exhibits plus ongoing aircraft restoration projects, retail store and a movie theater.
In 2014 the Yankee Air Museum raised funds to purchase 175,000 sq. ft. of the original bomber plant and the rest of the building was demolished. The portion they bought contains two bay doors where B-24 Liberators exited the plant during the war. There’s a five-year fundraising campaign to restore the portion and build exhibits. Eventually, it will change names and become the National Museum of Aviation and Technology at Historic Willow Run.
In the meantime, the museum is open to the public as Yankee Air Museum an flyable aircraft are available for public rides.
University Museum of Art
Built in 1910, the Neoclassical Alumni Memorial Hall is at heart of the UM campus. A new expansion of 53,000 sq. ft. in 2009 was designed by Brad Cloepfil and Allie Works Architecture. More than 18,000 works of art are in the permanent collection… 150 years of collecting at UM. There’s a strong component of Chinese paintings and Japanese and Chinese ceramics, plus Tiffany architectural glass from the H.O. Havemeyer mansion in Manhattan, and paintings by Whistler, Monet, and Helen Frankenthaler.
The Big House
Built in 1927 this is now largest stadium in the US with official seating for 109,901. Wow. No wonder this town is football crazy.
Nichols Arboretum and Matthaei Botanical Gardens
I loved this place! In 1907 UM created a botanical garden and arboretum on 80 acres. Now it is 700 acres with arboretum and visitor center, conservatory and display gardens at Matthaei Botanical Gardens.
Nichols Arboretum has 123 acres bordering the Huron River on east side of Ann Arbor. There are collections of native and exotic trees and shrubs, plus the fabuljous Peony Garden with 234 peony cultivars in 27 beds dating from 1927. The site also has a Magnolia Glen, Centennial Shrub Collection with ornamental shrubs and small trees, rhododendrons, azaleas, maples, oaks, magnolias, elms, and chestnut trees.
The conservatory at the visitor center opened in 196 and you can see plants from three climate zones – tropical, temperate and arid. Plus, the lovely bonsai and jenjing collection.
My last night was spent at one of the country’s top music clubs to see Paul McCandless, with Charged Particles, a jazz trio from San Franciso. McCandless was amazing, playing bass clarinet, English horn, soprano saxophone, oboe and flute. Over the years artists he’s appeared with include Pat Metheny, Wynton Marsalis, and Bruce Hornsby. His jazz group Oregon produced 28 albums and in 1996 he won a Grammy Award for best Pop Instrumental with Bela Flack and the Flecktones. In 2007 and 2011 he received Grammys for best New Age Album with Paul Winter Consort.
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