We’ve Got Mail... April 2008

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Fondness for Freer

> I enjoyed the article on the Charles Lang Freer house [February 2008]. It was well-written, substantial, and informative regarding Detroit’s rich cultural heritage. I hope to see more articles such as this one. It greatly enhanced an already handsome magazine.

— Dr. Thomas W. Brunk, art and architectural historian, Detroit

> I was so fascinated by George Bulanda’s wonderful article and appreciate his including me in an interview. Great job!

— Susan A. Hobbs, Ph.D., Alexandria, Va.

> As chair of the Freer House Restoration for the Board of Visitors for Merrill-Palmer Skillman Institute (Wayne State University), I can’t thank you enough for the outstanding article on Charles Lang Freer by George Bulanda. Please know that many people have told me how much they enjoyed it. It’s amazing that many Detroiters are unaware that Mr. Freer’s home still exists, and who he was, and what he gave to the Smithsonian.

— Phebe Goldstein, Bloomfield Hills

> As the curator of American Art at the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art/Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C., I was very pleased to read George Bulanda’s piece “The Legacy of Charles L. Freer” in the February issue of Hour Detroit. The story of how Freer’s philosophy of collecting developed out of the decoration of his own home on Ferry Avenue (now Ferry Street) is an exemplary case study in Gilded Age patronage, for, as the article explains, Freer envisioned his house as a haven from the unlovely realities of industrial capitalism. The collaborative efforts of the architect Wilson Eyre, the artists Thomas Dewing, Maria Oakey Dewing, and Dwight Tryon, and Freer himself resulted in “a dream of beauty, inside and out,” as a friend of Freer’s later described it. …

By the turn of the century, Freer’s focus of collecting had shifted to Asia, but his interest in textured and tonal surfaces and decorative harmonies remained constant. Indeed, it was through the decoration of the house on Ferry Avenue that Freer developed an aesthetic eye, and his ability to discern what he called “points of contact” between Asian antiquities and American tonalism ultimately resulted in the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art. A number of the works mentioned in the article are part of a small focus exhibition called Surface Beauty: American Art and Freer’s Aesthetic Vision, which opened in the Freer Gallery of Art at the end of February. [Editor’s note: The exhibition will be up for approximately two to three years.]

— Lee Glazer, Washington, D.C.

> Hour Detroit is to be congratulated on a very fine and informative article in the February issue about Charles Lang Freer and Freer House. George Bulanda did a masterful job weaving together the fascinating threads of Freer’s extraordinary life as an industrialist and world-class art collector. He made a clear and convincing case for the preservation of the historic Freer House as a jewel of Detroit architecture, with great cultural significance not only to our city and state, but to the nation and the world. The tasteful design, beautiful photographs, and intelligent writing made this article equally accessible to readers unfamiliar with Freer, as well as those seeking a deeper understanding of his remarkable Detroit history and home.

Freer’s contributions, as Bulanda states, were not only to the Smithsonian with the gift of his collection of American, Middle Eastern and Asian art, but also to the cultural life of Detroit, as evidenced by his support of Pewabic Pottery, the Detroit Club, the Detroit Museum of Art (today’s DIA), and art scholarship at the University of Michigan. … Thank you for making the history and culture of Detroit, as evidenced by this excellent article, a vital part of your magazine’s mission and purpose.

— William S. Colburn, Friends of the Freer House

> Write us at editorial@hourdetroit.com or “Letters to the Editor,” 117 W. Third St., Royal Oak, MI 48067.

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