Welcome to Michigan!

Posted on March 19th, 2012 by

A blog post by Outreach Coordinator Rachael Binning.

Welcome to Michigan!

This year I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Council of American Jewish Museums (CAJM) 2012 Annual Conference inDetroitMichigan. The Jewish Museum of Maryland is very generous and encouraging when it comes to professional development for its staff and several JMM staff members attended the CAJM conference with me.  I was able to travel toDetroitthis year partially because I co-chaired a panel with Elena Rosemond-Hoerr on museum-school partnerships and also because I was a CAJM fellow.

The outside of the Downtown Synagogue in Detroit.

To be honest, when thinking about traveling toDetroitfor this conference I was not overly enthused.Detroitis going through some difficult times economically and the idea of traveling there in the middle of winter sounded slightly miserable. However after my trip there, my opinion of the city has changed. To begin, the weather was great. Although it was a bit cold at times, it was sunny and bright the entire trip. Also, because of the way that the conference was structured the conference attendees got to visit an array of museums and cultural institutions throughout the city and its surrounding suburbs. It became on my trip that there is a wealth of arts and culture in the city that is fueled a cadre of energetic residents. Deborah Cardin, our own Assistant Director here at the JMM, co-chaired the conference and really did a wonderful job. The amount of planning and logistics that went into this conference is unbelievable.

The Oscar Mayer Weinermobile at the Henry Ford Museum

Dr. Guy Stern giving a tour of the Ritchie Boy exhibit at the Detroit Holocaust Memorial Center.

Some of my personal highlights from the trip were:

– Visiting the Downtown Synagogue (http:///downtownsynagogue.org/) in downtown Detroit. This synagogue was on the brink of being destroyed before it actively revitalized by a group of Jewish young adults living in the downtown area of the city. The synagogue has beautiful colored glass tiles and a vibrant array of programs.

– Co-chairing an education panel with Elena. Our panel “Building Bridges: Museums and Schools as Partners” focused on how museums, from big to small, can learn how to successfully partner with schools or other community organizations for long term projects. For our portion of the panel we invited one the 8th grade teachers we have been working with to help us talk about our museum-school partnership with Commodore John Rodgers Middle School. The audience found it really helpful to have Ms. Smith on the panel. From her they learned what these partnerships are like from a teacher’s perspective.

– On our last day of the conference we went the Detroit Institute of Art where we ate lunch in the Rivera Court where we were surrounded by Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry fresco. Graham Beal, the director and president of the museum, gave an engaging talk about the exhibits. I loved it!

– At the Holocaust Center in Detroit there was an exhibit on the Ritchie Boys, a group of men who fled Nazi Germany and then joined the US Army and went back toEuropeas soldiers with an expertise in intelligence and psychological warfare. Dr. Guy Stern, who was a Ritchie Boy and helped to create the exhibit, gave some of the conference attendees a tour. It was great learning about the exhibit from his perspective.

The Diego Rivera fresco, Detroit Industry, at the Detroit Institute of Art.

My only complaint about the conference was that I didn’t have enough time to see so many great cultural institutions. In addition to the sites I listed above we also visited theMotownMuseum, theArabAmericanMuseum, theHenryFordMuseumand more. I’m already looking forward to the CAJM conference next year.

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Highlights from the Detroit Art Scene: Part II

Posted on March 5th, 2012 by

A blog post by Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink.

One of the “selling” points of the CAJM conference inDetroitwas the many museums that we would go to. Rather than just attending sessions in one hotel or conference center, we toured a number of museums. Several of the sessions were then related to the exhibitions we just saw.

We began Tuesday morning at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History (www.thewright.org)

While I remember Chris Webber for calling a time out for University of Michigan during the 1993 NCAA Championship game when his team did not have any time outs remaining, I learned that he began to collect African American artifacts in 1994. His collection,including slave records and costumes worn by James Brown, was donated to the Wright in 2007.

Our final conference sessions were held at the Detroit Institute of art (www.dia.org). As an art history major specializing in American Art, I felt like I was in heaven!

We ate lunch in the Rivera courtyard, surrounded by “Detroit Industry” murals by Diego Rivera. Rivera was a Marxist who believed that art belonged on public walls rather than in private galleries; he also gave the worker and the manager equal stature in art and in life.

For more details about the 27 panels that Rivera completed in just 11 months click on this link: http:///www.dia.org/art/rivera-court.aspx

I had a flashback to our February 10th field trip to the National Gallery of Art when we came to “Watson and the Shark” by John Singleton Copley. This is the third and smallest version of this painting. The second painting is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Encountering “First State Election in Detroit, Michigan, 1837” by Thomas Mickell Burnham was very timely as Tuesday was theMichigan primary!

Rabbi Sprinzen would be proud that I can still read “Sampson” and “Delilah” in Hebrew. I love the frames on the Elihu Vedder paintings, too!

This piece reminded me a little bit of the Hutzler Cabinet. Must be all of that dark wood and intricate design.

I’ve always found the triptych “Classical Figures” by Thomas Dewing to have a calming effect on me.

I had no idea that all of this amazing art and history was hidden in Detroit. Thank you, Deborah, Josh, Terri & Stephen and the rest of CAJM, for the opportunity to see it all!

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Highlights from the Detroit Arts Scene: Part I

Posted on March 2nd, 2012 by

A blog post by Senior Collections Manager, Jobi Zink


This week I went to Detroit, Michigan for the Council of American Jewish Museums (CAJM) conference.  I’ll be honest. I didn’t want to go. After all it was Detroit in February. I was expecting 3 feet of snow on the ground, whipping wind, gangs, abandoned houses, and open drug trade.

Axel Foley (character in Beverly Hills Cop), Rapper Eminem and the movie 8 Mile did not leave an overwhelmingly positive impression of Detroit.

After 4 days of touring museumsin the city and suburbs, my opinions have greatly changed! Mother Nature cooperating with 40 degree days certainly helped, but the arts scene was truly impressive.

It isn’t a trip to Detroit without some Motown.

The Cranbrook Art Museum is on a 175-acre campus. The museum just underwent a $22 million dollar renovation—I couldn’t wait to check it out! http:///www.cranbrookart.edu/museum/

Eliel Saarinen designed the museum in 1942. The sculpture and ponds seem like a natural extension of the building.

Rachel, Elena &LeighAnn relax on a bench in front of a Sol LeWitt mural, part of No Object Is an Island: New Dialogues with the Cranbrook Collection.

The Henry Ford Museum was another enormous facility—the galleries alone are 3 acres, and then there is Greenfield Village and the factory. We only had one hour to tour the exhibitions before sessions began on Monday morning. http:///www.thehenryford.org/

The “exploded” Model T allows visitors to see how the car is assembled, even without visiting the factory.

While many visitors are awestruck by the John F. Kennedy Limousine, I was charmed by Teddy Roosevelt’s Presidential horse-drawn carriage.

It was very powerful to hear the recorded testimony of Rosa Parks about why she didn’t move to the back of the bus in Montgomery, AL in 1955 while I sat in the very seat in the second row that she refused to vacate.

The “With Liberty and Justice for All” exhibition had the chair in which Abraham Lincoln was sitting when he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth at the Ford’s Theater in Washington, DC in April 1865.

Someone was working on one of the giant engines in the collection.

E.T. would have his choice of phones. While I didn’t see many cordless phones from the 1990s, the Iphone 4S is on display in the lower left corner.

Model kitchen from the 1930s made me think of the Chosen Food exhibition, as did the model kitchen at the Arab American National Museum.

The dome above a fountain in the lobby and mosaic in the hallway of the Arab American National Museum. http:///arabamericanmuseum.org/

No one from the CAJM contingency was surprised that there were suitcases at the beginning of the main exhibition, “Coming to America.”

The empty case was a powerful reflection of a refugees account, “we brought nothing with us.”

Docent Guy Stern, who just turned 90, gave us a personal tour complete with anecdotes of the “Ritchie Boys” exhibit that he curated at the Holocaust Memorial Center. www.holocaustcenter.org

Check back on Monday for Part II!

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