MSU massacre 911 calls offer emotional view of tragedy's first moments

Detroit artist unveils mural representing region

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Detroit —Hubert Massey’s mammoth “Crossroad of Innovation” was placed in its permanent home Sunday, not far from one of the most famous frescoes in Detroit.

Artist Hubert Massey talks about the fresco and the iconography of Detroit. 

People examine artist Hubert Massey's recently-unveiled  30-by-30-foot fresco “Detroit: Crossroad of Innovation" during a celebration that included an artist talk and demonstrations at Cobo Center in Detroit, Michigan on September 23, 2018.  The $510,000 Buon Fresco, which will deepen its color over the years, was made possible by the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority (DRCFA) Art Foundation.

Massy offered a 10-minute talk Sunday as visitors celebrated the mural's home, gracing Cobo Center's Grand Riverview Ballroom.

He said he learned the “lost technique” of producing frescoes two decades ago from the assistants to the creator of the most famous fresco mural in Detroit, Diego Rivera.

Two of Rivera’s assistants were in Detroit for maintenance work on the 1932 Detroit industry murals. It created a special opportunity to learn the craft himself, Massey said before his talk.

“Back in the early '90s, the Art Foundation of Michigan chose 12 artists to study under Diego Rivera’s assistants,” Massey said, and he was one of them. “They came in, and after they did a restoration, they did a workshop, and the workshop was on the process of how to do a fresco. Out of the 12, I was the only one to pursue it.”

A detail from the fresco depicts the Ambassador Bridge.

About 100 people Sunday saw the 30' x 30' work and attended Massey’s talk, with the Detroit River glistening in the distance, behind art and artist.

Barbara Wynder, a candidate for Detroit’s city charter revision committee, was part of the community advisory group that learned of Massey’s vision before the $510,000 work was committed to paper.

She called the work “outstanding,” but lamented that due to its location, "Crossroad" might lack public visibility.

“If you didn’t know it was here, you might not see it,” Wynder said. “Maybe that can be addressed with signage.”

Lorraine Jenkins is a neighbor to Massey on Detroit’s west side.

Jenkins summed up he work in one word: “togetherness,” and focused her attention on the bottom of the painting, which shows a black girl, arms extended, interlocking with a white arm on one side and a black arm on the other. 

The fresco sits outside the Grand Riverview Ballroom.

Those arms, Massey said, represent the suburban and urban aspects of Metro Detroit, both exerting their pull on a child of the region.

Jenkins has seen a number of Massey’s works but said "Crossroad" is the best.

“I see growth and I see inspiration coming out of him,” Jenkins said.

Massey called the work “by far, one of my favorite pieces.".

A large robotic arm at the center of the mural shines a light on the world. Within that world, Michigan appears in 23-karat gold. The gear at center represents technology; the light represents innovation, he said.

The three women on the right represent The Supremes, Massey said, but also represent the Metro Detroit woman at work: artists, engineers, lawyers, designers, doctors and others.

The always-crowded John C. Lodge Freeway is a wall away from single-family homes. That’s a nod to Detroit’s past status as a city of homeowners.

The Detroit River, which was the freeway system before cars and freeways existed, is featured prominently as is Windsor, Detroit’s neighbor to the south.

But while the mural shows roads in Windsor, in southeast Michigan it shows symbols meant to represent the “Indian, Hispanic and European” heritage of the Detroit area.

At the bottom left, a Native American woman with a baby points the way to Canada. Beneath her, a man holds a gas light and a slave stands under it, his last stop before Canada on the Underground Railroad.

Children colored in sample selections from the mural, which were printed off. People who wanted to learn fresco techniques could join a live demonstration.

Sisters Jowayreya, 5, left, and Taleen, 7, Garamoon of Sterling Heights add their own colors to drawings of the fresco details. People examine artist Hubert Massey's recently unveiled 30' x 30' fresco “Detroit: Crossroad of Innovation" during a public celebration that included an artist talk and demonstrations at Cobo Center in Detroit on Sept. 23, 2018.

Massey pointed to the organic nature of the six-ton work.

“River sand, lime, marble dust and oxidized pigment, that’s all it is,” Massey said. “Everything’s from the Earth.”