Less than a mile separates Wayne State and the College for Creative Studies. And despite lacking any formal connection, the two schools share commitments to nurturing art in Detroit.
The real connection to art between the two schools, WSU art history professor emerita Dr. Marion Jackson said, is more informal.
“I think it goes more on the basis of individual connections,” she said.
Jackson said exhibition announcements are posted at both schools and shared via e-mail, but the two schools’ curricula don’t really intersect. Connections are based more on personal contacts between faculty and students from WSU and CCS.
In the Detroit art community, she said, “people will run into each other, people get to know each other, and — between individuals — collaborations work out of that. Also, maybe a Wayne State faculty member will invite a CCS faculty member to do a special workshop or critique of student work.”
One connection the schools do share, she said, is CCS graduates often come to WSU for graduate school, since the college’s Master of Fine Arts program is limited to focusing on design and business, whereas WSU’s grad school programs offer more options.
CCS and WSU are also brought together through public artwork exhibits.
Carole Beach, an adjunct art history professor at CCS, was the director of Art on the Move, a nonprofit that no longer exists that placed WSU and CCS students in Detroit high schools in order to create sculptures to be exhibited throughout the city.
She also directed the street-painting exhibition during the now-defunct Detroit Festival of the Arts. A group of 35 artists, some of whom were WSU and CCS students, created murals in chalk on the sidewalk. The festival partly took place on and around WSU’s campus and ran from 1987 until it lost its sponsorship in 2009.
Beach continues to coordinate the Noel Night Ice Scraper Challenge, in which 10 students — five from each school — work together to create giant ice sculptures in front of the DIA.
“I team them up on purpose so that both schools are collaborating ideas with each other,” she wrote in an e-mail. “We have dinner the night before the event initially to organize but in reality it’s to help the two school’s art students meet.”
Betty Huang, a CCS sophomore studying product design, transferred from WSU this year because she liked the small-school feeling and CCS’s intense curriculum.
“We’re known for having like the most homework anywhere, second to Harvard, is what I’ve been told,” she said.
She said students from the two schools do intermingle, either through living together, going to parties or just hanging out.
“I know one person had one friend, and so then the two groups hung out a little bit every so often so that’s how they got to know each other,” Huang said.
Annmarie Borucki, marketing manager for the University Cultural Center Association, said the Midtown Loop Greenway, a planned two-mile bicycle and pedestrian trail around the Midtown area, could one day exhibit the artwork of WSU and CCS students.
One of the goals of the greenway is to use public art, she said, and while creating temporary exhibition stations for student artwork is still only an idea, it would give practical experience to students in designing their art for outdoor exhibition.
“What you design in a classroom, a lot of times, is different than what works in the public arena,” she said. “We think it’s important to try and give students a place to show their work.”
Tom Pyrzewski, WSU interim gallery director and lecturer, received his bachelor’s from CCS and his master’s from WSU. He said each school plays to each other’s strength.
“My experiences in graphic design taught me discipline … so when I came to Wayne State, I felt like I had that discipline, which was good for me because when I entered the grad program, that’s what you need here in this program at Wayne State,” he said. “We have instructors that are here from CCS … so there’s an interaction between staff and faculty, too.”
A few adjunct instructors do teach at both schools at the same time, he said.
As part of Art Detroit Now’s Detroit Gallery Week last September, he and CCS Gallery Director Michelle Perron worked together to put on a parade with students from both schools.
“It was like movable art,” he said. “We paraded over to CCS and then we met there and all the CCS and Wayne students paraded up to MOCAD. So there’s quite a bit of collaboration.
“I think we’re both strong schools and for the most part, we have a good relationship with each other, especially our gallery programs. We support each other.”