'Live at Five' online tours highlight Cranbrook art and architecture
Wandering the Cranbrook campus in Bloomfield Hills is one of the great pleasures of springtime, but because of the pandemic, all parts of the Cranbrook Educational Community are officially closed - so no walks allowed.
Happily, Kevin Adkisson, resident curator at the Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research, has launched a series of "Live at Five" online tours Tues.-Thurs. at 5 p.m. that focus mostly on Eliel Saarinen's remarkable architecture and design.
Shorter tours Tuesday and Thursday are on Instagram (search for @cranbrookcenter), while Wednesday's longer tours, about 45 minutes each, are carried on the Center's Facebook page. ("Like" the page and you'll get updates on forthcoming tours.)
"On Wednesdays, the Facebook 'Live at Five' involves a longer tour of a building or series of buildings on campus," Adkisson said, while the Tuesday and Thursday Instagram tours cover smaller Cranbrook stories.
You have to show up right at 5 p.m. to catch the start of the tours, but once the first airing is over, they're available anytime online.
This Wednesday, Adkisson will walk viewers down Academy Way past Saarinen House and Milles House (named for the Swedish sculptor Carl Milles whose works dot the campus), examining the exterior architecture along the way.
The video tours are an imperfect substitute for the walking tours Adkisson used to give, but he notes there are advantages.
"As a guide, I never know when I gesture to a detail obvious to me whether other people know what I’m talking about," he said. "Now I'm able to get very close to objects and brickwork, and when I say, 'Do you see that?', I know that’s all they can see."
Among other tours, Adkisson said, "We did one on the athletic sculptures at the high school, and another on two chairs by Eero Saarinen," Eliel's only son. There are also walkarounds focusing on Kingswood School's architecture and ornamentation, which garnered some 4,200 views since April 15, as well as what was originally called the Cranbrook School for Boys.
Having done six longer tours and 12 short ones, does Adkisson worry about running out of topics?
"No," he said, "because Cranbrook has such rich diversity and depth. But it is a little hard to plan, not knowing how long the shutdown will go."
The Saarinen buildings along Academy Way are arranged in chronological order, starting at Lone Pine Road, Adkisson notes.
One of the advantages to Wednesday's tour is that it will highlight how Eliel Saarinen's architecture evolved from the mid-1920s, when he designed the boys' school, to 1942, when his masterpiece, the Cranbrook Art Museum, opened.
"He reworked and reworked," Adkisson said. "Every building is a piece of the puzzle."
Coming up May 20 will be a Facebook tour of Cranbrook House, designed by Albert Kahn.
'Live at Five' Cranbrook tours
5 p.m. Tues. & Thurs: Instagram (search for @cranbrookcenter)
5 p.m. Wed: Facebook (search for Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research)