Ways of the Designer: Betty Odle and the Wayanas

Early in 1969 then Cranbrook Institute of Science Director Warren Wittry gave exhibits designer, Betty Odle, an assignment to “design and build an exhibit on the Wayana Indian tribe of French Guiana and Suriname of northeast South America.” Odle and assistant Stella Toland worked over seven months to transform Caucasian store mannequins into the native Wayana people. Odle created the facial features, coloring, and anatomy from studies of photographs taken by explorer Art Erickson who lived with the Wayanas during his expedition to French Guiana.

Betty Odle adjusts a wig on a Wayana figure, Aug 1969. Cranbrook Archives.

Betty Odle adjusts a wig on a Wayana figure, 12 Aug 1969. Cranbrook Archives.

Creative modifications were necessary to create an accurate depiction of the Wayanas. Odle and Toland spent hours applying paper mache and plasticine to the bodies of the mannequins. Modeling clay was used to shape the faces before oil paint was applied to complete the finest details. The exhibit, “Ways of the Wayana,” opened in October 1969 and included a recreation of the “Wasp Mat Ceremony” with Odle’s life-size figures.

Betty Odle sits with the Wayanas she created, Sep 1969. Cranbrook Archives.

Betty Odle sits with the Wayanas she created, 10 Sep 1969. Cranbrook Archives.

Odle received high praise for the accuracy in her work by Erickson. Her work as the exhibits designer at the Institute spanned from 1959-1985. In 1984 she received Cranbrook’s Founder’s Medal for her many contributions to Cranbrook Educational Community.

Gina Tecos, Archivist

Anne Morrow Lindbergh: The Cranbrook Connection

The Archives has in its collection photographs of a sculpture modeled by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. How did Lindbergh come to study at Cranbrook? In April 1942, Charles Lindbergh, at the invitation of Henry Ford, came to metro-Detroit as a technical consultant to assist with retrofitting the Willow Run plant from auto manufacturing to bomber production. In July, the Lindberghs moved to Bloomfield Hills and signed a one-year lease for a furnished home then owned by Kathleen Belknap. Originally known as “Stonelea,” the home, designed by Albert Kahn in 1923, is located at the corner of Cranbrook Road and Woodward Avenue and is now known as Lyon House. The Lindberghs were quickly welcomed to the neighborhood by Carolyn Farr Booth (wife of Henry Scripps Booth). During the summer of 1943, Anne enrolled at the Cranbrook Academy of Art where she studied modeling and sculpture with sculptor Janet DeCoux, and art history with Ernst Scheyer. Since Charles was away much of the time, Anne asked Janet and her partner, Eliza Miller, to move in with her to help raise her four children. Thus began a friendship among the three women that lasted until the end of Mrs. Lindbergh’s life. (Approximately fifty letters, 1944-1952, from Anne Morrow Lindbergh to DeCoux can be found in the Janet De Coux Papers at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art.)

Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, 1943. Cranbrook Archives.

At the Academy, Anne was treated not as the wife of a celebrity or even as a grieving mother, but as any other student. In her diaries (published in “War Within and Without”) Anne wrote of the freedom she experienced at Cranbrook “where people take me on faith.” Work in the studio, exhibitions at the Art Museum, and parties with music and conversation about art, books, and writing allowed Anne the freedom to “give my true self as I have never done in a group of people before.” She developed social courage and friendships with Janet and Eliza, Carl and Olga Milles, Ernst Scheyer, and neighbors like Kate Thompson Bromley. Her work as a sculptor taught her to see the world through a different lens – she learned how to sketch the human figure and transpose her ideas into her sculpture and it both surprised and excited her that she could actually see beauty in a sculpture, especially one made of her own hands. She was inspired by the natural beauty of Cranbrook, cross-country skiing on the grounds, and writing in her brown trailer in the woods. (Anne wrote her novella “The Steep Ascent” while at Cranbrook.) She relished the time with her children, and often walked them down the hill to Brookside School. Dinners with the Saarinens were exhilarating where they talked of “cities of the future.”

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Anne Morrow Lindbergh picnicking at the Greek Theatre at Cranbrook, Jun 1944. Copyright The Detroit News.

In August 1943, Kathleen Belknap decided to sell the home, then known as Belwood, and the Lindberghs moved into a home at 411 Goodhue Road, behind Christ Church Cranbrook, for the next year. The two years spent at Cranbrook forever changed Anne spiritually. She discovered self-confidence, and that people liked her for who she was. After the Lindberghs returned to the east coast in 1944, Anne missed her Cranbrook friends and the life she had discovered here and wrote that she felt “only half alive since I left Cranbrook.” The Lindbergh family continued to return to the Detroit area to visit Charles’ mother Evangeline at her Grosse Pointe residence until she passed away in 1954. In January 1974, at the request of the Class of 1974, Kingswood School headmaster Wilfred Hemmer invited Anne to be the school’s forty-fourth commencement speaker.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Discoveries Around Campus

The dormers at Cranbrook House. Cranbrook Archives.

The dormers at Cranbrook House. Cranbrook Archives.

The staff at the Center for Collections and Research work closely with the Capital Projects and Facilities staff on campus restoration and repair projects. The archival staff often provides historical photographs, documentation, and architectural drawings to the project managers. Sometimes the staff makes interesting discoveries during the projects they are working on and share them with us.  The other day Craig Hoernschemeyer (Project Manager for Capital Projects) was in the archives looking for a historic photograph of a dormer window on the east addition (1918-1919) of Cranbrook House.  As luck would have it, he found one.  The following is from Craig:

“Today, when the copper roof was opened up on that dormer – center right in the photo [above]- we found a bunch of newspaper mixed in with the insulation. It was no surprise that it was The Detroit News, but it was dated the first day of winter, December 21, 1919. It was there during the original construction of the wing.”

Detroit News, 1919. Photo Craig Hoernschemeyer.

Detroit News, 21 Dec 1919. Photo Craig Hoernschemeyer.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Remembering Svea Kline: Artist and Teacher

As we continue to celebrate the women of Cranbrook during Women’s History Month, our Friday post is dedicated to sculptor and teacher, Svea Kline (1902-1989). Born in Karlskrona, Sweden, Kline came to Chicago in 1928 with her twin sister. Following her mother’s advice to find a “practical profession,” Kline studied physiotherapy at Northwestern University for two years and practiced with a physician. She also took art classes at the Art Institute of Chicago during this time.

In 1940, Kline came to Cranbrook Academy of Art to attend the summer session, which she also did the following year. In 1942 she received a scholarship award that provided her residence at the Academy during the academic year during which she won first prize in a student competition. From 1942-46 she studied sculpture with Carl Milles and ceramics with Maija Grotell. She became a lifelong friend of Milles, and often lectured about the sculptor and his work.

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Carl Milles, Svea Kline, Mabel Deardon, and Mary Woolf (holding Dinah Mitchell) in Millesgarden, ca 1944. Cranbrook Archives.

In 1943, Kline started the Sculpture Department at the Flint Institute of Arts, and began teaching there part-time. From 1950 she taught there full-time and also at the Saginaw Museum of Art. Kline also taught at what was then the Bloomfield Art Association and Haystack School for the Arts in Maine, worked as Milles’ assistant from 1949-50, and was one of the founders of the Sculptors Guild of Michigan. Founded in 1952 as the Terra Cotta Sculptors, the group “provided an umbrella for women to prove their validity as artists to the community and to provide support and inspiration to each other.” (Men were invited to join in 1977.)

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Fountain Piece, 1944. Cranbrook Art Museum.

As a sculptor, Kline worked in metal, bronze, wood, ceramic and glass. Her innovative work with glass was considered “ahead of her time.” She molded glass, fused glass, painted on glass, and embedded pieces of colored glass into a background layer of glass—a process she called “gemaux.” In Michigan her works are displayed at the Berkley Public Library, Flint Public Library, Genesee Merchants Bank and Trust, Detroit Broach Company, Koebel Diamond Tool Company, Michigan Credit Union League, and the First Baptist Church of Royal Oak.

In a December 1983 interview in the Birmingham Eccentric, Kline fondly remembered her days at Cranbrook. “I thought it was just heaven on earth—so well-kept, so many interesting people from all over the world. There was a marvelous spirit.” She also recalled with pleasure the great artists with whom she was associated—Eliel Saarinen, Carl Milles, Maija Grotell, and Harry Bertoia. Coincidentally, we have an image (displayed below) of Kline wearing a brooch designed by Harry Bertoia. In honor of the Cranbrook Art Museum’s exhibition of Harry Bertoia’s jewelry (which opens tonight), we are featuring a photograph of Kline wearing a Bertoia brooch.

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Svea Kline, Marguerite Kimball, Lillian Holm, and Joy Griffin West at the opening night of the student exhibition, May 1944. Cranbrook Archives.

Gina Tecos, Archivist

Amelia Earhart at Cranbrook?

Although there is no documentation that Amelia Earhart ever visited Cranbrook, records of one of her visits to Michigan are housed in the Cranbrook Archives. The photographs and telegram illustrated here are from the Gliders, Inc. Records and help tell not only the story of Amelia Earhart, but also that of glider aviation in Oakland County, Michigan.

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Telegram, 12 Feb 1929. Gliders, Inc. Records, Cranbrook Archives.

The first glider plane was designed in 1852, but it was not until September 1928 that Gliders, Inc. became the first company in the United States that exclusively manufactured motorless aircraft. Gliders, Inc. was founded by William E. Scripps, the younger brother of Cranbrook’s Ellen Scripps Booth. The factory, located in Lake Orion, Michigan, produced first and second class gliders, and the “Detroit Gull” became the glider of choice for many gliding clubs across the country. Gliders, Inc. was also called upon to do much of the early glider pilot training – over 800 men and women in 1929.

Group at Willow Run

Major Reed Landis, Amelia Earhart, Nina Downing Scripps, William Scripps, Don Walker, and Frank Blunk at Willow Run, Feb 1929. Photo by Detroit News. Cranbrook Archives.

In December 1928, Scripps invited Amelia Earhart to his estate, then known as Wildwoods. Earhart accepted and in February 1929, took her first glider ride at the “Scripps Field” in a Gliders, Inc. Primary Training Glider.

Primary Training Glider

Amelia Earhart flying the primary training glider, Feb 1929. Photo by Detroit News. Cranbrook Archives.

Additional female aviation facts:

In November of 1929, Earhart and 25 other women gathered at Curtiss Airport in New York to establish The Ninety-Nines, Inc. – an aviation organization for any woman who held a pilot’s license. Earhart was the first president.

Maxine Dunlap of San Francisco was the first woman to earn a glider license in 1929. Hers was a third-class glider license. Anne Lindbergh followed in 1930 with a flight that earned her third-class, second-class, and first-class licenses. She was the first woman in the US to earn a first-class glider license. Check back next week for a post about Lindbergh’s connection to Cranbrook, and yes, she DID visit here!

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

The Amelia Elizabeth White Gift

In honor of Women’s History Month, we like to try to tell the stories of women that might otherwise go unnoticed. Thousands of women have stepped foot on the Cranbrook campus, or have been involved with Cranbrook in some way. One such woman was Amelia Elizabeth White (1878 – 1972), philanthropist, passionate champion for the rights of the Pueblo, and a collector and promoter of Native American Art. In 1937, she donated a very large collection of Native American art and artifacts to Cranbrook Institute of Science, where they remain today.

From the 1938 Cranbrook Institute of Science Annual Report.

From the 1938 Cranbrook Institute of Science Annual Report.

Born into an upper class family in New York City, White was educated at Bryn Mawr and traveled widely before she and her sister Martha served as volunteer nurses with the Red Cross in World War I. After the war, White, who had first traveled to New Mexico in 1913 to visit a friend, arrived in Santa Fe where she purchased a tract of land just south of the city. She soon built a home called “El Delirio” or “The Madness” (designed by William Penhallow Henderson) which quickly became a popular gathering place for writers, artists and intellectuals. By 1923, White had opened an art gallery called “Ishauu” in Manhattan ( run by Dolly Sloan), in order to promote southwestern Native American Art.

White was a member of the Eastern Association on Indian Affairs (EAIA) initially composed of men and women residing in and around the city of New York who shared an interest in the life and crafts of the Pueblo. She was instrumental in the organization of The Exposition of Indian Tribal Arts in 1931 and served as chairman of the Executive Committee. Along with other patron-philanthropists including Mary Cabot Wheelwright and Abby Rockefeller, White’s goal was to show Native American art as a traditional art form. The exposition included more than 600 pieces of pottery, jewelry, textiles, sculpture, paintings, beadwork, and basketry, many of which were from White’s personal collection.

Navajo necklace

Navajo necklace. Image courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

To continue her wish to “have the American Indian take his place in the museums for American art in this country,” White dispersed her collection of art and artifacts to numerous museums across the country including Cranbrook Institute of Science, Cleveland Museum of Art, the National Anthropological Archives at the Smithsonian, the New Mexico History Museum, and the Detroit Institute of Arts. White’s collection, which she donated in 1937, was the largest single accession of the Institute other than our founders, George and Ellen Booth. The donation included textiles, pottery, jewelry and artifacts from the Pueblo, Navajo, Kiowa and Alaskan Inuit.

Navajo wedding belt

Navajo wedding belt. Image courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

A fascinating woman in her own right, White’s contributions to the Institute’s anthropological collection has been nearly forgotten. In his letter to White on December 16th 1937, then Institute of Science Director, Robert T. Hatt, expresses his gratitude for the donation: “I hasten to assure you that no finer thing has ever happened to this organization than the bestowal which you have made.”

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist and Gina Tecos, Archivist

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