Motor City Icon: The Spirit of Detroit

Motor City Icon: The Spirit of Detroit

Oct. 5, 2018 – Jan. 19, 2019


Motor City Icon, The Spirit of Detroit Exhibition Honors 60 Years

More than a year ago, museum staff began talking about the ways we might celebrate the 60th anniversary of The Spirit of Detroit through an exhibition at the Museum.  There were so many components that could and should be considered, and it came together nicely.

Motor City Icon, The Spirit of Detroit opened at the Museum on Oct. 5.  The exhibition has four components: historical documents and photographs; ephemera and objects that have The Spirit of Detroit displayed on them; an 81-second animated film about the “Spirit;” and an exhibition of contemporary works of art by 18 artists who have received a Kresge Visual Arts Fellowship.

Detroit Tigers Jersey worn by The Spirit of Detroit October 24 – 32, 2012 in honor of the Tigers playing in the World Series


Original sketches, presentation drawings, correspondence, photographs and clippings from the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum Archive tell the story of The Spirit of Detroit commission, execution and dedication in 1958.  Several maquettes (models) of various sizes made by the artist are included in the exhibition.

The History of The Spirit of Detroit from the Marshall Fredericks Archives


More than 70 objects and ephemera that bear The Spirit of Detroit image (postcards, greeting cards, drawings, flyers, City of Detroit letterhead, business cards, recycling bin and manhole cover, caps, t-shirts, jackets, sneakers, coasters, glasses, and so much more fill a gallery.

The Spirit of Detroit in Pop Culture


The animated film by filmmaker Bill Holland of Chicago shows the “Spirit” standing up after sitting at the foot of Woodward Avenue for 60 years, walking north on Woodard through Royal Oak, Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills where Marshall worked and lived for all his adult life, and on to the museum that bears his creator’s name can be seen in the gallery, or view it here.

The final component is comprised of works by Kresge Visual Arts Fellows who accepted Marilyn Wheaton’s invitation and challenge to create an artwork that speaks to what the spirit of Detroit (people, culture, personal identity, history) or Marshall Fredericks’s The Spirit of Detroit means to them. The artists are Lynne Avadenka, Corrie Baldauf, Jeanne Bieri, Susan Goethel Campbell, Olayami Dabls, Ed Fraga, M. Saffell Gardner, Bruce Giffin, Oren Goldenberg, Carole Harris, Scott Hocking, Sydney James, Chido Johnson, Cuppetelli and Mendoza, Nicole Macdonald, David Philpot (posthumously), Senghor Reid, and Robert Sestok.

Kresge Visual Arts Fellows exhibition

Chido Johnson – hahahoho, 2012


You will not want to miss this exhibition.

The opening reception to meet the artists will be Saturday October 13, 2:00 – 4:00 pm.

Click here to view the exhibition images.

Click here to view the exhibition catalog.


Supported by MCACA and The Samuel L. Westerman Foundation


Categories: Events

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