A Place Where Art and Science Meet

Some of my favorite blogs, such as My Modern Met, capture the connections between science and art. At Cranbrook, the intersection of these two worlds often occurs when I delve into a research request. I recently found myself in this happy place as I discovered information about the Mary Soper Pope Memorial award, while researching botanist Emma Lucy Braun. Cranbrook Institute of Science awarded the medal to Braun in 1952.

First award of the Mary Soper Pope Memorial medal, 1946.

First award of the Mary Soper Pope Memorial medal, 1946. From L-R: Marshall Fredericks, Gustavus D. Pope, George Booth, Franz Verdoorn (recipient), Robert R. McMath, and Robert T. Hatt. Photographer, Harvey Croze.

Mary Soper Pope (1872-1940) was the wife of Gustavus Debrille Pope (1873-1952). Gustavus Pope, a Detroit manufacturer and humanitarian, was among many things the director of the Detroit Museum of Art, president of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts, a Cranbrook Foundation Board of Trustees charter member, and a board member of both the Cranbrook Academy of Art and the Institute of Science.

In 1946, the Trustees of the Institute announced the foundation of the Mary Soper Pope Memorial medal to be granted as often as the Board deemed desirable for “noteworthy and distinguished accomplishment in the field of plant sciences.” The award was a memorial to Mary Soper Pope as a tribute to her “thoughtful nature, her quiet yet inquiring spirit, and her constant pleasure in the beauty of growing things.” The Institute Trustees commissioned sculptor Marshall Fredericks (1908-1998) to design the medal. Fredericks taught at Kingswood School and Cranbrook Academy of Art from 1932 until he enlisted in the armed forces in 1942. According to correspondence in the Cranbrook Institute of Science Director’s Papers, this was Fredericks’ first commission since his return from service as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Air Forces.

I love Fredericks’ design. On the obverse, the medal bears the figure of a woman holding a delicate seedling before the eyes of a child. The reverse is a profusion of vegetal growth and in it a chameleon.

Marshall Fredericks sketches

Marsall Fredericks sketches, ca 1946.

The 3” diameter medals were cast in bronze by the Medallic Art Company in New York. The Committee of the Mary Soper Pope Memorial medal agreed on the following principles: 1) the medal should be given for noteworthy and distinguished accomplishments in plant science, 2) the medal may be given in any field of plant science, 3) the medal should be given in different fields of plant science, 4) the medal should be given without limitation (nationality, race, creed, and academic career or position), and 5) the medal is to be given at any point in a person’s career.

Mary Soper Pope Memorial Award

Mary Soper Pope Memorial Award. (T.2014.1.19)

With these principles in mind, the Institute awarded the medal to seventeen scientists between 1946-1970, including botanist Emma Lucy Braun, ecologist William Vogt, and soil scientist, Edgar T. Wherry. While I enjoyed the initial research about Braun that led me to reading about this award, I loved following the Detroit and Cranbrook connections between art and science.

Gina Tecos, Archivist

A Philosopher Chimpanzee’s New Home

Lake|Flato Architects of San Antonio, Texas designed the Cranbrook Kingswood Middle School for Girls in 2011. Like other buildings on Cranbrook’s campus, Lake|Flato designed niches along the main hallway for the display of art. I’ve had the pleasure of helping incorporate art pieces into the building; we always try to add works that enhance the material palette of the building–green glazed brick, Kasota limestone, brown cast-stone block, copper, and light maple.

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Philosopher Chimpanzee displayed on a custom mount in a niche at the Cranbrook Kingswood Middle School for Girls.

This summer, the Center for Collections and Research along with Capital Projects installed a work from the Cultural Properties Collection in one of the niches: Philosopher Chimpanzee, by former Kingswood School Cranbrook Sculpture Instructor Marshall M. Fredericks.

Philosopher Chimpanzee is a bronze high-relief of a monkey in a thoughtful pose with a smaller monkey in the background. There is a green patina on the bronze.

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Signature “Marshall Fredericks” on the bottom of the relief

The Philosopher Chimpanzee was done as a part of a series of twelve reliefs by Fredericks. He designed the series for a competition in 1939, hoping they would be installed on a government building in Washington DC, but the building was never built.

The donor of the work, June Lockhart, was a 1938 graduate of Kingswood School Cranbrook. While at Kingswood, her sculpture teacher was Fredericks. Lockhart’s father, Robert H. Daisley, was the Vice President of Eaton Manufacturing Company. He commissioned Fredericks to create a memorial in honor of the employees of the Eaton Manufacturing plant in Saginaw who died in World War II. Daisley bought the Philosopher Chimpanzee at that time, which Lockhart inherited upon her father’s death. She generously gave it to Cranbrook last year, and we are excited for the girls to see it when they return for classes this fall!

The chimp joins the other Marshall Fredericks works on campus, including The Thinker at the Academy (another philosophizing primate), The Pony Express reliefs at the Boys Middle School, and the Two Sisters at Kingswood.

– Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar *

* Fun Fact: One of Leslie’s hobbies is giving tours of Greenwood Cemetery in Birmingham, Michigan, where Marshall M. Fredericks, as well as the Booth family, are buried.

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