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April 14, 1974 - Image 5

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1974-04-14

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Sunday, April 14, 1974


Page Five

W here to find beauty and god
taste in and around Ann Arbor <n


TT IS FITTING to consider 'the
aesthetics of Ann Arbor' in this
the Sesquicentennial year. Aes-
thetics, noun, defined as: 'the
philosophy or theory of taste or
of the perception of the beautiful
in nature and art'. Aesthetic, ad-
jective, partially defined as: 'in
accordance with the principles of
good taste (or what is conven-
tionally regarded as such)'. (De-
finitions from Oxford English
Dictionary.) With that as a base,
let me try to develop my theory
of the perception of the beautiful
in nature and art in Ann Arbor;
let us see what elements of the
city are in accordance with the
principles of good taste. I say
'elements of the city' because I
believe few urban communities,
as wholes, are beautiful. In all
cities, selective seeing can un-
cover beauty. Some cities hold
more beautiful elements than oth-
ers; Ann Arbor is one of these.
The perception of beauty is a
tricky thing. Most thoughtful
people grant that much beauty
lies in the eye of the beholder.
All of us are conditioned in our
seeing by the commonly accepted
principles of good taste and beau-
ty held by our society, our peer
groups or our admired friends.
In any city with Ann Arbor's ex-
ceptionally diversified citizenry,
we must expect to find a mar-
vellous range of beholder's eyes.
Fortunately, here also is an ar-
ray of visual riches awaiting
There is the beauty of the man-
made environment: the architec-
ture, the streets, the open
spaces. One can trace the his-
tory of much midwestern domes-
tic architecture by walking along
quiet, tree-lined, central-city
streets past neo-classic treasures
and more modest wooden-frame
gems apparently designed by
imaginative carpenters of years
gone by.
Architecture enthusiasts can
peer at the 'good taste' of past
decades in historically intriguing
structures like the old fire sta-
tion, the old University Observa-
tory or the once proud Ann Arbor
Railroad Station. Architectural
nostalgia is visible in such con-
structed after - images as the
Law Quad or the Clements Li-
brary and in the vagaries of
such whimsical creations as The
Horace H. Rackham School of
Graduate Studies. There is high-

ly distinctive modern architec-
tural style available in the Music
School and its siting, the Uni-
versity Reformed Church, and
the eerie lobby space of the Pow-
er Center (preferably before
its recent 'adornments').
There is the fascinatingly dat-
ed Nicholls Arcade and the more
recently reclaimed early busi-
ness structures of Kerry Town
and the Miller-Main complex.
And there are also, in all these
veins, lesser architecture - the
'architecture that missed' - to
help exercise one's aesthetic sen-
Connected with the architecture
is the upsurge of outdoor wall-
painting in Ann Arbor. The aes-
thetics of this art form is still
developing as more and more
walls are covered with new-style
outdoor murals throughout the
world. For those attuned to wall
art our city offers a wide range
of interesting images from the
message murals of the Black Stu-
dies Center through the para-
dise picture of Eden foods to the
fantasy motif of Ann Arbor Cy-
an equal variety, including a
range from the sluggishly kinetic
Rosenthal cube of Regents' Plaza
to the Milles fountain in the
'Mall'. If your aesthetic taste is
more nostalgic still, wander
through - Forest-Hill Cemetery
with its funerary sculptural trib-
utes to early Ann Arbor resi-
One can also find sculpture,
painting, graphics and crafts in
more 'normal' settings in the
University Museum of Art, num-
erous commercial galleries and
the private collections of friends.
(It is perhaps time to note that
although I am concentrating in
this essay on the visual arts, I
am aware that beauty in art in-
cludes music, theatre and dance,
and that Ann Arbor offers a host
of musical, theatrical and dance
experiences to the interested au-
There are less traditional aes-
thetic experiences to be had with
the man-made portions of Ann
Arbor as well. In recent decades
some of our eyes have been
stretched by the structure and
content of movies, television, Pop
Art and individual artists like
Robert Rauschenberg so that we
now perceive beauty in new
areas of the urban environment.

This brings me to the aesthetics
of an area which lies between art
and nature. There are those who
find enormous beauty in human
situations - in crowd environ-
ments. Such beholders respond to
the beauty of the dramatic and
kinetic structures sometimes to
be found in super-emporia like
Meijer's Thrifty Acres or in more
fluid situations like the Farm-
er's Market or the Ann Arbor
Street Fair.
Let us now leave the realm of
urban beauty and move to the
perception of beauty in nature.
Most of us have experienced nat-
ural beauty. Some of us may
long only for the sublime beau-
ties of high mountains, jungle
foliage, ocean expanses or desert
sands. But for those who can
exercise selective seeing, Ann
Arbor offers much treasure here
First there are city parks
where people of all ages inter-
act with nature on mini-levels,
discovering, for example, the
truly intimate beauty of insect
life or a wondrous variety of
shapes of grass. Ducks and oth-
er 'water life' can be sampled
in places like Island Park and
the parks along Huron River
In 'nature' parks like Saginaw
Forest and Matthai Botanical
Gardens, trails allow city dwell-
ers to come closer to nature
without country skills. And there
is open country within a few
minutes' drive for those hardier
beings who prefer to direct their
own forays in search of nature's
AS YOU NOW know, I find
Ann Arbor a place filled with
the adventure of seeing. Among
the adventures come many mo-
ments of aesthetic experience,
of perceiving beauty. With re-
gard to elusive 'beauty itself ,
may I leave you with the words
of Shelley:
'Where is the love, beauty and
truth we seek
But in our mind?'
Ms. Kirkpatrick is an Assistant
Professor of History of Art at the

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An example of Ann Arbor's crowd aesthetic:
the Farmers Market.
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Friday, Apr. 19-Sunday, Apr. 21st

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