The spirit which, refusing to admit defeat in the face of seeming failure, patiently waits for u time when the Fates seem to be more propitious and then, when Opportunity does appear is ready to welcome him and use him to the utmost is the spirit which wins the things worth winning in the world of art as well as in the more prosaic matters.
This truism has been well illustrated this past fall in Detroit, when, after repeated failures, a few faithful workers succeeded in bringing about the erection of a per- manent and fireproof art building on the State Fair grounds.
As early as 1905 several of the members of the Society of Arts and Crafts prevailed upon the munagcrs of the annual State Fair to set apart the second floor of the Woman’s Building, and through their efforts a creditable exhibition of examples of the fine and applied arts was shown therein. For three years this exhibition was repeated with success. After that, the management of the Fair having changed, the space and the financial appropriations were with- drawn and the art exhibition degenerated into the usual “art department” of the country fair.
But the idea of supplying a display of objects of art that would be of real worth for the great crowds that thronged the Fair Grounds each year—representative people from every section of the great state of Michigan—still lived in the hearts of a few men and women. Moreover, they desired to place the art exhibition on such a firm foundation that no future change in the State Fair administration could cause it to be ignored and its perpetuation would be practically insured.
The knock of Opportunity was heard last year, when the management of the Fair admitted that the abandonment of the art exhibition was a mistake and invited the interested members of the Society of Arts and Crafts to again take charge of that department. In response, the necessity for erecting a building which would be absolutely fireproof, in so far gs this is possible, was urged. The suggestion was acceded to, and although there was an architect regularly employed by the Fair management, the commission for designing the art building was given to Mr. W. B. Stratton, whose disinterested desire to aid in developing a more general interest in art matters throughout the state had kept alive his interest in the State Fair project through all of its discouragements.
The building is but a small one—its dimensions 80 by 40 feet. It is of pure white cement over hollow tile and is classic in outline and character. The style is both dignified and appropriate for its puqjose. The interior of the building has been divided into three galleries. Entering the building at the main entrance, which faces the north, the visitor is at once in the middle gallery which is designed for the display of ceramics, wrought-iron work, posters, jewelry, bronzes, basketry, mural decorations. desigus for various commercial activities—in short the exhibit of the ex- amples of the applied arts.
Opening from both sides of this gallery are larger galleries which are intended for exhibits of the examples of the fine arts— pictures in oils, water colors, charcoal and pastels. Both the east and west galleries have outside entrances which provide a direct passageway through the building and aids in preventing the congestion by spectators. The building is so constructed that additional galleries can be added at either end—or at both—without interfering with tin* symmetry of the architectural design.
A beautiful material of silk and linen, soft grey in color was secured to cover the walls of the interior and it has proved to be a most acceptable background both for the pictures and the exhibit of the applied arts. The woodwork in the rooms has been covered with a very dark stain, almost black, in fact, and this gives character and strength to the whole.
Properly placed skylights have given the galleries a light for exhibition that is excellent. There arc windows at each end hut these and the outside doors have been hung with curtains of a soft cotton stuff, dyed a dull brownish buff color, and these subdue the light that would have streamed in overstrung at some periods of the day.
Owing to the fact that, for the first time, the Michigan State Fair had a building that was fireproof and sufficiently guarded, so that valuable works of art could be deposited there in safety, the opening ex- hibition held September 4th to 13th of this year secured pictures from such artists as Leon Dalm. Francis Petrus Pauliis, F. S. Church, Edmond Rolfe, and others of more circumscribed and local reputation, but who had never before ventured to trust their work to the accommodations heretofore provided. Among the craftsmen Frederick G. Roth sent two bronze pieces and a group of polar bears, while Miss Mary Chase Perry of the Pewabic Pottery had a generous display of that artistic pottery.
Altogether the exhibition was adequate and successful. During the ten days of the fair the building was constantly filled with people, many of whom would not have been likely to have visited an exhibition of pictures or of craftsinauabip at any other place. The floor that was stained to match the woodwork was worn down to the natural boards by the passing of many feet, long before the Fair was over; and this—we take it—is a true indication that the object for which the workers had striven was accomplished.
The credit for fostering an interest in the obtaining of a permanent art exhibition for the State Fair and for securing the erection of a permanent fireproof building is due to Miss Mary Chase Perry of Detroit, who was interested in the initial exhibition in 1905, and whose tenacity of purpose, during the three years when the interest was somnambulistic, never wavered. The credit for the excellence of the first exhibition in the new building must be given to Miss Helen Plumb, superintendent of the Art Exhibit of the State Fair, as well as to Miss Perry. Other members of the Society of Arts and Crafts who gave valuable aid were Miss Katherine McEwen, Mr. Horace J. Caulkins of the Pewabic Pottery, and Mr. W. B. Stratton, the architect of the building.
These earnest workers do not feel that they have achieved anything more valuable than a nucleus from which to expect growth. The building is but a small one, but it is quite complete aud suitable. It is therefore a most auspicious beginning to what has every op|M>rtunity of becoming a significant feature of all the state fairs of the coming years. The building Is there; it shows in every outline that it is intended for an art building. Therefore it will be necessary for the future administrators of the Fair to see that each display of examples of the fine and applies! arts is belter and more extensive than the ones tliat liave gone before.