The highlight of the trip was an outing to the Detroit Institute of Art, home of The Detroit Industry fresco by Mexican muralist, Diego Rivera. During the Depression, the Director of the Museum, William Valentiner, was so smitten with the mural Rivera painted for San Francisco’s Pacific Stock Exchange, that he commissioned him to paint the walls of the DIA’s Garden Court. Edsel Ford funded the project which took Rivera two years to complete, 1932-1933. There are legends around the perimeter of the Garden Court tiles that name each section of this striking piece.
As I have written before, I am a Human Resources professional and wanted to visit this magnificent work symbolizing a hardworking labor force for quite some time. As I walked into the massive gallery, I was awe struck, seriously rendered speechless by this vibrant and colossal work. I was afraid to look away for fear I would miss a detail, a face. I stood in the middle of the expansive room and spun around — twirled in delight — several times to appreciate the piece in the order it was intended. I particularly noticed the eyes of one worker, carefully scrutinizing his task behind a pair of early 20th century spectacles and the hands of another, strong, large, purposeful, ready for the work of the day.
You can read more about the Murals here.
In another room, I spotted a Modigliani and I was over the moon.
Then there was the John Singer Sergeant.
In Detroit, there has been discussion about auctioning this stunning collection to help the city climb out of its current circumstance. Some things, like art, surely transcend fiscal policy; art teaches people to hope, to escape the ordinary and enter the world the artist created. I was was not at the DIA that day. I was — all at once — in a bustling factory, on a French countryside, in an Italian villa, and sitting in an aristocrat’s parlor. To sell this collection to revive city services would be a travesty and short-sighted indeed, no matter how altruistic the motive. People need a reason to visit, a destination within a destination, to more than a building.
We drove home through beautiful western PA and thought about a detour to see a covered bridge in Clearfield County but it was a little bit out of the way so a covered bridge tour to Lancaster County is in my future. We saw a tin can tourist in a sweet airstream trailer...made me jealous!