Cranbrook Academy of Art Looks Back at 90 Years with New Exhibit

With Eyes Opened’ features more than 275 works by more than 220 artists from the institution
with eyes opened - cranbrook academy of art
This Untitled (1966) piece by Wook-kyung Choi (MFA Painting, 1965) is among the pieces featured in With Eyes Opened’s Salon Abstraction gallery. // Image provided by Kukje Gallery

In 1932, Cranbrook Academy of Art opened with a new approach to arts education. Unlike classic institutions, the Bloomfield Hills-based academy hired teaching artists instead of academic professors and embraced studio space over traditional classroom settings. Students were encouraged to experiment and explore various mediums as well.

Cranbrook’s art education philosophy proved successful — the academy has since gained a reputation as one of the country’s top programs in architecture, design, and fine art. Now, the institution is looking back at its nearly 90-year-history with a new exhibition — and book — called With Eyes Opened: Cranbrook Academy of Art Since 1932, which features more than 275 works by more than 220 artists from the academy’s different programs of study.

“It has been nearly 40 years since the Academy was the subject of a major exhibition and publication, thus With Eyes Opened offers a timely take on the history of this utopian project, whose impact has been felt far beyond metro Detroit,” says Cranbrook Art Museum Director Andrew Blauvelt, the chief curator and author of With Eyes Opened, in a press release.

eyes wide opened - cranbrook academy of art
See Charles Eames (Architecture 1938-1939, Artist-in-Residence, Department of Design, 1939–1941) and Ray Kaiser Eames’ (Weaving, 1940–1941) work in the Playground gallery. This Herman Miller Inc. Eames Storage Unit is made of steel, birch plywood, and plastic laminate. // Photograph by R. H. Hensleigh and Tim Thayer

The exhibit, which will be presented at the Cranbrook Art Museum, is organized into 10 galleries. Among those galleries is Architecture of the Interior, focused on Cranbrook’s contribution to Mid-Century Modernism; Salon Abstraction, a floor-to-ceiling installation featuring abstract paintings, photographs, prints, and sculpture; Playground, a showcase that highlights how Cranbrook Academy of Art-educated artists have contributed to the concept of play; and Sculpture Court, which examines sculpture and other large-scale architecture, fiber, metal, and ceramic works. Featured artists include designers Charles and Ray Eames, photographer and performance artist Liz Cohen, multidisciplinary conceptual artist and curator Jova Lynee, contemporary textile artist Rowland Ricketts, textile designer Ruth Adler Schnee, and more.

A preview of With Eyes Opened will be held on June 18 and 19 for the museum’s ArtMembers. It opens to the public on June 20 and runs through Sept. 19. The exhibit is included in general museum admission, which is $10 for a general ticket, $8 for seniors, and $6 for students with an ID. Kids 12 and under are free. COVID protocols can be found online.

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