North of the Detroit Institute of Arts is a smaller gem—the Flint Institute of Arts. Operating for over 90 years, the FIA offers traveling exhibitions, permanent collections, lectures, demonstrations, educational programs, art classes and much more. They strive to advance the understanding and appreciation of art…and I can tell you they are definitely meeting their mission.
Last year, I was able to see a fabulous traveling exhibit by Isabelle de Borchgrave. It was one of the most unique shows I have seen. A prominent Belgian artist, de Borchgrave is known for her paper sculptures. In the exhibit I viewed, she had recreated clothing portrayed in popular paintings. Many of the costumes were from paintings of the Medici family. Portraits I had gazed upon many times came to life. It was thrilling. The curators at the FIA obviously recognize talent and are able to attract note-worthy events. I suggest checking out their current exhibitions regularly—this is a good tip for anyone visiting a local museum. Even though they may be smaller, many institutes are trying actively to bring new content to their communities on a regular basis.
The museum also runs a community art school, which has more than 2000 students. Even those who aren’t students of the school can benefit from the programs though. They offer lectures, films, workshops, online educational resources, curriculum for home-schooled children, and studio demonstrations.
Flint has been in the news for years due to its Water Crisis. Although often portrayed as a declining American town, the Flint Institute of Arts shows a different side to the city. The institute provides cultural enrichment and education to the community. The beauty on display gives hope and joy. If you’re in Flint, I recommend visiting the FIA. But no matter where you are, consider getting out and giving your local museums some love.
Artisans show museum-goers the craft of glassblowing in the Art School’s Hot Shop. I’ve seen glass-blowing performed on the island of Murano in Italy and to my eye the artists in Flint are practicing the craft similarly to the famed Italian glass masters. Unlike in Italy though, I wasn’t standing in a group of people trying desperately to glimpse what was going on. Also, no one tried to sell me pieces of glass. Instead, the FIA’s free program allows people to sit comfortably and watch the show. It was nice to see how skilled artisans continue to practice a craft as they have for centuries. The museum’s permanent collections also have glass pieces from various regions and historical periods.
I was really quite impressed with the variety within the permanent collections. Here are a few highlights of each.
European Collection—features more than 1500 works from the Renaissance to the 20th century. There are paintings, sculptures, drawings, decorative arts, tapestries, and furniture. Some noted artists whose works are exhibited are: Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Auguste Rodin, Peter Paul Rubens, Lucien Pissarro, Justus Sustermans, Alfred Sisley, and Simon Vouet.
American Collection—thousands of pieces of art of various media including paintings, sculptures, paper, and art objects comprise this collection. Artists of the 18th and 19th centuries are highlighted including: John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt, and Benjamin West. The compendium also includes Modern/Contemporary art by Alexander Calder, Dale Chihuly, Deborah Butterfield, and more.
Art of the Americas—featuring ancient art from as early as the 19th century BCE to the last century, this compilation of art showcases pieces from pre-Columbian and Native American cultures. Cultures represented in the pre-Columbian exhibits include: Aztec, Mayan, Olmec, and Incan.
African Collection—the majority of works in this group date from the 19th and 20th centuries. The collection is primarily comprised of objects of everyday use, ceremonial, and ritual functions from different regions and tribes of Africa including: Yoruba, Bobo, Zulu, Chokwe, and Yombe.
Asian Collection—wood, marble, limestone, and bronze Buddhist sculptures, as well as spiritual pieces from China, Japan, and South/Southeast Asia are featured in this compilation that dates back to the 10th century CE.
I sit on the Board of Directors for our local historical society. We oversee a magnificent history museum, the Castle Museum of Saginaw County History. My position on the board (and as its previous Chairperson) has given me valuable insight into the budget and needs of smaller museums. Some are funded partially by tax dollars, while some rely solely on donations, admission fees, and grant dollars. Regardless, all local museums need our support. Especially now, our neighborhood institutes are likely hurting financially. Many may not survive the pandemic. If you get the chance, please venture out and support your local museums.
Students with ID/Senior Citizens: $8
Children 12 and under: free
Huntington Saturdays: free
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