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July 04, 2003 - Image 52

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-07-04

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Arts Entertainment

PASSION from page 49

University District, Sherwood Forest and Palmer
Woods all have such homes. Several apartments on
East Jefferson also are filled with Pewabic tiles, as
are older homes in Indian Village, Birmingham,
Bloomfield Hills and Huntington Woods.
The eminent Jewish architect Albert Kahn worked
closely with Pewabic's founder, Mary Chase Stratton,
and incorporated the pottery's work in many build-
ings he designed. In addition to enjoying Pewabic in
his own office in the Fisher Building, he also used
the tiles amply and stunningly in the Detroit
Athletic Club, built in 1915. (The club's recent
makeover includes new Pewabic tiles.) Wayne State
University's Bonstelle Theatre — first designed by
Kahn as one of the buildings used by Temple Beth
El — originally featured Pewabic tile.
There are many glorious installations of Pewabic,
but Stratton considered her work for the Detroit
Institute of Arts to be her capo lavoro, her master-
work.
Pewabic at the DIA includes the step raisers at the
Detroit Film Theatre, a drinking fountain in the
theater's lobby, another fountain
between Rivera Court and the Walter
B. Ford Great Hall, as well as floors in
several galleries of the original building.
"We're hoping to uncover two more
rooms with original Pewabic, which
we've seen in photos from when the
building first opened," says Barbara
Heller, chief conservator at the museum.

Living With Pewabic

irN

7/ 4
2003

52

Irene Walt is one of many Pewabic
admirers who choose to live with
Pewabic. Her rambling English Tudor
in Huntington Woods has early
Pewabic in the bathrooms and a more current
installation in the charming backsplash of her cobalt
blue- and white-tiled kitchen.
"All seconds — I love their imperfections," she
notes, admiring their "beauty, antiquity, color and
quality."
Former DIA curator Suzanne Hilberry had origi-
nal turquoise Pewabic tile in her old home on
Chicago Boulevard, where she lived in the 1970s
and 1980s. When she moved to Birmingham, closer
to the gallery she opened there, she wanted to con-
tinue living with Pewabic.
She helped the pottery fund research that allowed
it to re-create recipes for its early iridescent glazes,
and enjoys the tiles in a fireplace surround in her
home. "The iridescence gives it this fiery, luminous
quality, particularly lively in the morning and late
afternoon, and when there's a fire in the fireplace,"
says Hilberry.
Sandy Kirsch, a personal trainer, and husband Dr.
David Kirsch, a chiropractor, live in a Huntington
Woods Tudor with a Pewabic-laden crest above the
front door. "The tile enhances the innate beauty of
the original architecture," says David Kirsch.
The couple's paved, courtyard-like back yard feels
like an oasis, with a fountain and Pewabic tiles
mounted on the brickwork, along with tiles by
David Ellison, a local artist who worked at Pewabic
and has trained many ceramists.

Sandy Kirsch's Tudor-style home in
Huntington Woods features a Pewabic crest
over the front door.

Pewabic tile is mounted in the brickwork of
the Kirsches' paved, courtyard-like back yard.

The Kirsches' master bath is a careful balance of
old and new: The vanity's curved lines suggest a
deco feel; the granite counter is flecked with irides-
cence — a match for the surrounding robin's egg
blue Pewabic.
"I get excited seeing this quality in homes — it
represents an era where craftsmanship was highly
regarded," says Sandy Kirsch.
Dr. Arthur Leiberman, an osteopath, and his wife
'Rochelle, owner of Gateway Travel in Farmington
Hills, feel the same way. Their stately Bloomfield
Hills Tudor has a bucolic setting, and attention to
handmade, Old-World details remind one of bygone
times.
Before moving into their 1927 home, the couple
unanimously agreed to replace the old, cracked tile
in the vestibule with Pewabic. Blue and green hues
pave the way for the warm elegance beyond.
The bathroom once used by their daughters com-
bines a modern vanity, a leaded window in an eave
and seafoam green Pewabic tile. Arthur Lieberman's
bath features an original pedestal sink surrounded by
warm, yellow Pewabic, which is enhanced by pale
yellow-and-white striped wallpaper and a contempo-
rary black and white photograph.

Arts Champion

Irene Walt, a former Pewabic Pottery board member,

is a leading figure in placing art in the public arena.
The handsome, gray-haired woman, trained as a
home economist, speaks with a lilting British accent.
"I was drawn to Pewabic because of my great
interest in the Arts and Crafts movement, and real-
ly," she smiles, "because I fell in love with Pewabic's
luminous glazes."
Walt and her husband, the late Dr. Alexander J.
Walt, and their three children left South Africa
because they hated apartheid. Dr. Walt did his surgi-
cal training at the Mayo Clinic before coming to the
old Detroit Receiving Hospital.
In 1967, the young couple was shocked by the
Detroit riots, which occurred three years after the
Sharpeville riots in South Africa. Dismayed by the
racial divisions and Detroit's deterioration, they
decided to do something to improve their adopted
city.
Irene Walt began with her husband's hospital,
helping to refurbish several wards with electric beds
and new furniture, linen drapes and "always, a
painting."
When the new Detroit Receiving Hospital opened
in the mid-'70s, Walt, along with several other art
supporters including Lee Hoffman and Eugene
Driker, served on an art commission appointed by
Mayor Coleman Young and Wayne State President
George Gullen. The members not only "raised half a
million dollars," Walt recalls, "but installed eight
major sculptures and acquired several hundred
works of art for the new hospital."
Walt also helped build three parks, including the
Shifman Gardens at Wayne State University School
of Medicine. She arranged major commissions for
the WSU medical school and the Patrick V.
McNamara Federal Building. But the project she is
most proud of is "Art in the Stations" for the People
Mover.
While traveling with her husband for his career
(he was president of the American College of
Surgeons), Walt marveled at the beautiful subways
in Moscow, Leningrad, Paris, London, Sweden, Los
Angeles and Buffalo. She decided Detroit deserved
its own version.
In the late 1970s, she became the main advocate
for using Pewabic in Detroit's People Mover stations.
Mayor Young appointed her chairperson of the
ambitious "Art in the Stations" project, which was
"funded partially by the federal government and pri-
vate foundations and individuals," recalls Walt.
"Art in the Stations" committee members Andrew
Camden and his wife, Gayle, "strongly urged the
committee to use Pewabic, a national treasure,
which was possibly facing the end of the line," says
Walt, "and we agreed this would be our first order of
business."
Today, the People Mover's Times Square station
has two Pewabic murals: Tom Phardel's flashy mural
in primary colors, In Honor of W Hawkins Ferry,
and Anat Shiftan's lush, untitled classic blue-and-
gold mural which incorporates the "Art in the
Stations" logo.
Allie McGhee's rhythmic Voyage used Pewabic tal-
ent to create tiles for the Michigan Avenue station,
and Al Loving Jr. produced his soft, cool-colored
tiles at Pewabic for Detroit New Morning at the
Millender Center stop.

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