Two hidden gems at opposite ends of the region, the Kelsey Museum of Archeology at the University of Michigan and Detroit's Live Coal Gallery, are small spaces that yield big rewards for the visitor.
And with the Kelsey hosting "Death Dogs: The Jackal Gods of Ancient Egypt" through May 3, who could resist?
Housed across from Angell Hall in an imposing Romanesque Revival stone building (built by the same architects who did the Gandy Dancer), you might not think at first glance that the public is welcome.
But you are. And you will be glad you walked in.
Named for the Latin professor who began the collection, Francis W. Kelsey, this compact museum wanders agreeably through succeeding rooms on two floors. Objects in the collection, which number about 100,000 (not all on display), range from the ancient to the medieval. Many were discovered on U-M archeological digs.
Among other treasures, you'll find a colorfully painted Egyptian mummy coffin, amulets from the Near East, ancient glass vessels, Greek pottery, Roman sculpture, and a room reproducing the famous Villa of the Mysteries murals in Pompeii, with their rich reds and purples.
But back to those death dogs. Grrr.
Here's the surprise: While it sounds menacing, having a death dog around while making your way to the afterlife was actually a good thing, at least for ancient Egyptians. The dog sitting at attention in the sculptural fragment "Funeral Stela: Standing Man Making an Offering" from the second century isn't a threat. He's there to help and guide the about-to-be-dead guy doing the offering.
The most important of the jackal gods was Anubis, the protector of the dead — a sort of divine embalmer responsible for preserving the bodies of the departed. Interestingly and indicative of the jackal's surprisingly high standing in Egyptian society, death dogs themselves were deemed worthy of embalming.
Embalmers working on bodies often wore Anubis masks, according to museum literature, as would the priest at a funeral, both symbolic stand-ins for the god himself. After embalming, the internal organs would often be placed in limestone urns, which in some cases sported plugs in the shape of a jackal head, like "Canopic Jar with Duamutef-headed Stopper," created somewhere between 664-332 B.C.
Then there are the heads, or busts, that dot the galleries, each one spotlit in a most-satisfying fashion. Some are just gorgeous, and appear to be ready to talk. In particular, check out the rich, brown marble "Head of Silenus or an Old Satyr" from the Roman Period in the second century.
A Detroit show not to miss
If your plans don't take you to Ann Arbor, however, you might consider dropping into one of the smallest and most-likable galleries in Midtown Detroit.
Artist and curator Yvette Rock installed Live Coal Gallery — open Thursdays and Fridays — on the ground floor of her home in Woodbridge almost two years ago. Right now she's hosting an all-Detroit group show, "Memories," featuring Kelly Darke, Larry Zdeb, Carole Morisseau, Sabrina Nelson and Colin Darke.
"Memories" closes April 14.
The exhibition, which is heavy on portraiture, is great, and you might well find that this agreeable little space — much like the Kelsey — is one you want to return to time and again.
"Death Dogs: The Jackal Gods of Ancient Egypt"
Through May 3
Kelsey Museum of Archeology,
434 S. State, Ann Arbor
9 a.m. - 4 p.m. Tuesday - Friday; 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. Saturday & Sunday. Closed Monday.
Through April 14
Live Coal Gallery, 5029 Trumbull, Detroit
$5 (suggested donation)
9 a.m. - 3 p.m. Thursday; 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. Friday.
More art around town:
Ferndale's Lawrence Street Gallery (248-544-0394) opens its annual juried photo show, "Exposures: Photography '15,'" with a reception tonight from 6 p.m. - 9 p.m. The show closes April 24. Also in Ferndale, the Susanne Hilberry Gallery (248-541-4700) has "William J. O'Brien" till May 9, while Detroit's Re:View Contemporary (313-833-9000) hosts Megan Heeres' "The More We Get Together." through April 18.