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Lawrence Tech professor's art exhibit showcases many styles

Release Date: August 7, 2012

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – Associate Professor Gretchen Maricak of Lawrence Technological University demonstrates her wide range of subjects and styles in an exhibit of her artwork now on display at the Birmingham Historical Museum & Park through Nov. 10. There are actually two companion exhibits: “The Arts and Crafts Period in Birmingham’s Eco-City Neighborhood” and “The Architectural Art of Gretchen Maricak.”

A reception will be held Friday, Sept. 14, 5:30-8 p.m.

The museum located at 556 Maple Road in Birmingham is open Wednesday through Saturday from 1-4 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for students (K-12) and seniors. Children five and under are free.

Museum Director Leslie Pielack conceived of the architectural theme of both exhibits as a way to bridge the work by Maricak with current research on 1910s and 1920s residential architecture in Birmingham. As the city of Birmingham naturally evolves over time, older, smaller housing stock is replaced by new homes.

“In the case of such neighborhoods as the Eco-City area, the original working class bungalows built largely for auto workers are disappearing, and so will the stories they have to tell,” Pielack said.  “How these humble but popular homes represent a snapshot in time, and the values they embodied, are a fascinating part of the Arts and Crafts movement.  We believe it is important to understand and interpret what this meant for our community then, and how it is still relevant today.”   

In the Eco-City Neighborhood exhibit, Maricak employs her skills as an architectural illustrator to recreate houses that were built for working class families and veterans returning from World War I. She presents the bungalow-style houses from the Arts and Crafts era in their original form (minus subsequent additions) with painting schemes and landscaping appropriate for the time period.

“I wanted to show the potential of these historic structures that have been altered in the intervening decades,” Maricak said. “I’d like to inspire owners to embark on restoration projects and preserve an important part of Birmingham history.”

The exhibit also depicts everyday life of working class families of that era with a display of decorative items and furnishings, including Mission furniture, ceramic pieces by Pewabic and other potteries, textiles, lamps and other period-inspired pieces.

The second exhibit represents Maricak’s body of work over several decades in various media including graphite, colored pencil, soft pastel, oil pastel, air brush, water color, ink, oil, intaglio, and found objects. She experiments with mixing media such as oil pastel with airbrush-tow media that many people would not consider compatible. Her styles range from non-objective and abstract to architectural designs and illustration.

“My art is informed by my passion for architecture and diverse interests ranging from nature and science to history and science fiction,” Maricak explained. “I need to utilize a diverse range of media and surfaces to accurately tell the personal stories that I believe are inherent in all art. Art is beyond beauty.”

Maricak’s exhibit includes a pair of images of the Medusa Concrete Mixing Plant on the Detroit River that was torn down to make way for the RiverWalk. The first is a drawing executed on site in oil pastel and the second is painted in her studio with oil paint applied to Masonite board. The difference in colors and textures provide insights into her range of techniques and thought process.
A longtime resident of Birmingham, Maricak has a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Lawrence Tech and a master’s degree in art from Wayne State University. She is working on a doctorate in education at Eastern Michigan University, and her dissertation subject is how the college experience prepares students for the architecture profession.

A licensed architect, she has worked in the architecture firms of MinuroYamasaki and Harvey Ferrero and is now an architecture consultant. She started teaching at Lawrence Tech in 1977.

She serves on the board of the Birmingham Historical Museum & Park and is also on Birmingham’s Historic District Study Committee.

The Birmingham Historical Museum & Park, made up of the John West Hunter House and the Allen House, are located at 556 W. Maple Rd., at the intersection of Maple and Southfield. Two hours of free parking are available at the Chester Street parking deck opposite the museum. For more information, call (248) 530-1928, visit www.bhamgov.org/museum or email museum@bhamgov.org.

Lawrence Technological University, www.ltu.edu, was founded in 1932. Bloomberg Businessweek lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 20 percent of universities for return on undergraduate tuition investment, and highest in the Detroit metropolitan area.  Lawrence Tech is also listed in the top tier of Midwestern universities by U.S. News and World Report and the Princeton Review. Students benefit from small class sizes and experienced faculty who provide a real-world, hands-on, “theory and practice” education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 102-acre campus include over 60 student clubs and organizations and a growing roster of NAIA varsity sports.