Trash or Treasure: Ruth Adler Schnee exhibit coming to Cranbrook

By Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

Still going strong at 96, Ruth Adler Schnee enjoyed a seven-decade career that "shaped the look and feel of the mid-century modern interior," according to a press release.  A new exhibition opening Dec. 14 at the Cranbrook Academy of Art aims to “remedy the underrepresentation of Ruth’s pivotal role in the development of the American mid-century modern interior,” says director Andrew Blauvelt.

Famed designer Ruth Adler Schnee works with her iconic prints.

The press release gives other additional fascinating details about Adler Schnee’s work and career. One of the first women to graduate from the academy in 1946, the Detroit textile and interior designer was born to an artistic German-Jewish family in Frankfurt and later settled in Detroit after her family fled Nazi persecution. First studying fashion design at Cass Tech and then interior architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design, she went on to receive an MFA in design from Cranbrook and found a design consulting and modern design shop with her husband in Detroit in 1948.

Their store was one of the first to focus on modern furniture and fabrics. “She not only introduced the Detroit area to the movement but also received commissions to contribute drapery to the Ford Rotunda in Dearborn and her designs could be seen at the General Motors Technical Center in Warren and Yamasaki’s World Trade Center in New York,” exhibition information explains. Through her long career she received significant recognition, including a Women in the Arts Lifetime Achievement Award and a Kresge Eminent Artist Award. She collaborated with numerous modern architects on interior designs, including Eero Saarinen, Buckminster Fuller, and Minoru Yamasaki.

The heart of the exhibition will be the body of textile patterns she created over the course of her career, including the screen-printed fabrics whose broad appeal to modern architects and everyday clients elevated her stature in the mid-century modern movement. It will also include vintage textiles, archival drawings and photography, and examples of her ongoing textile collaborations with companies such as Anzea Textiles and KnollTextiles.  Knoll recently signed a 20-year contract with Adler Schnee when she turned 91. Ruth Adler Schnee: Modern Designs for Living continues through March 15, 2020. For more information, visit

Tiffany Blooms in Cleveland

 Winter may be almost here, but it’s spring in Cleveland – at least inside the exhibition “Tiffany in Bloom: Stained Glass Lamps of Louis Comfort Tiffany,” on view through June 14 at the Cleveland Museum of Art.  It’s well worth the drive to see this small jewel of an exhibition, which features 20 stained glass gems from the recent bequest of Cleveland industrialist Charles Maurer.

“Focusing on Tiffany’s passion for stained glass as a way to bring nature’s color into the home, the exhibition explores the artist’s vivid designs in relation to emerging artistic and craft movements at the turn of the 20th century,”  according to a press release. This dynamic, illuminated display of the designer’s finest stained glass table and floor lamps also features the iconic stained glass window made in about 1900 for the Howell Hinds House in Cleveland Heights and period photos and accounts of his artisans that provide a glimpse into Tiffany’s shop and studio.

The first time the collection has been on view in its entirety at the museum, it features some of the artist’s iconic and rare masterworks including the Wisteria, Peacock, Bamboo and Peony lamps, some of which were designed by Ohio native Clara Wolcott Driscoll, who rose to prominence as head of the Women’s Glass Cutting Department.  “Driscoll transformed the vibrant colors and seductive blooms of plant life into shimmering lamp designs that won Tiffany international acclaim,” according to Stephen Harrison, curator of decorative art and design.

Also worth noting are decorative items known as “fancy goods,” including inkstands, candlesticks, clocks, boxes, desk sets and other functional objects which the firm began producing about 1900, and the works that are examples of the company’s favrile glass, a development that the exhibition claims “became America’s greatest contribution to the Art Nouveau style. ”

For more information, visit