Detroit's Scarab Club will host a memorial Saturday for Jack O. Summers, a much-loved artist and longtime teacher at both the College for Creative Studies and Grosse Pointe South High School.

Summers, who was 80 and in apparent good health, died suddenly March 8. 

"It was just so shocking to lose him," said Treena Flannery Ericson, Scarab's exhibitions director, and a good friend for at least 20 years. "Jack lived life so full-tilt that the idea of him being gone is nearly impossible to imagine."

By all accounts, the man was gifted with an incandescent personality, and electrified generations of photography students. In retirement, Summers became an indispensable fixture in the Detroit art community, curating shows as well as exhibiting his own mixed-media and collage work. 

"Jack was the sole reason I became a photographer," said Lisa Spindler, who first encountered him in 1988 as a junior at Grosse Pointe South. "I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would become a photographer. But Jack really pushed me to see things differently." 

Summers' Facebook page, which is still up, is crowded with testimonials from artists and former students.  

Detroit painter Clinton Snider wrote simply, "Jack was easily one of the first big influences on my artistic trajectory."

Summers was a gifted curator as well, said Ericson, who recalls with particular affection "The Mundane Show" which he curated with Detroit artist Anne Fracassa.

"Jack had this wonderful way of seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary," Ericson said, "and that’s really kind of how he was. It's a wonderful metaphor for how he lived."

Summers especially delighted in bringing young artists into his shows, she added. "Having been a teacher, he always had his eye out for talent and passion."

But the man was no plaster saint. "Jack was passionate about politics, and gloriously profane about both that and art," Ericson said. "He was just fun and lived life furiously -- in a wonderful way."

Spindler says an acquaintance was going to bring Summers by her Detroit studio in early March, which thrilled her. But the artist died before that could happen. 

"Jack is and always will be in my mind the most amazing teacher I ever met," she said. "He can’t just be quietly forgotten. Teachers can change lives, and Jack changed so many."

Summers' memorial, sponsored by Detroit Artists Market, Hamtramck's Hatch Art, and the Scarab Club, will run from 5 p.m. - 8 p.m. Saturday at the club. Over 200 people have already RSVP'd that they will attend. 

It promises not be dull or somber -- Spaceband Detroit will be performing. 

Saturday, however, is also when federal appeals court Judge Damon J. Keith will lie in state at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History across the street. Parking may be a bit more challenging than usual. 

(313) 222-6021 

Twitter: @mhodgesartguy


Memorial for Jack O. Summers 

Scarab Club, 217 Farnsworth, Detroit 

5 p.m.-8 p.m. Saturday

(313) 831-1250

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