Marshall M. Fredericks and the Spirit of Detroit : The Spirit Made Flesh ... er, Bronze

Marshall M. Fredericks's sculpture, known as the Spirit of Detroit

The Spirit of Detroit is a statue which sits in the core of downtown Detroit, in front of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, a brief walk from the Renaissance Center and Hart Plaza, and the basepoint for street addresses through the entire Detroit metro area. The statue is a sixteen foot tall bronze of a seated man with his arms outstretched, holding a bronze sphere (symbolizing God) in his right hand, and figures of a small family in his left. Backing the already enormous sculpture is a 36 foot tall marble wall engraved with the city and county seals, as well as the biblical quote which inspired the sculpture: " Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." The Spirit took three years to create, from 1955 to 1958, and reportedly was the largest cast statue made anywhere since the Renaissance.

The statue is the work of sculptor Marshall M. Fredericks, who spent many years as the artist-in-residence at the Cranbrook institute in southeastern Michigan before World War II. His work appears in many places throughout the city, with several of his sculptures gracing Belle Isle. As with Albert Kahn, he can take some credit for giving the city its visual style, particularly given that he donated his time for many of his public works, including the Spirit. Fredericks has noted that he never actually named the sculpture, and that the citizens of the city gave it the identity of the Spirit of Detroit. Aside from periodically being dressed in a Red Wings jersey in recent years, one of the strangest things to occur involving the Spirit was just before St. Patrick's Day in 1982, when large green footprints were discovered leading from the Spirit, across Woodward Avenue, to a large sculpture of a nude woman washing her hair (Hubba-hubba).


As always, the Detroit News has some good information on Fredericks, and they also have a round-up of other statuary in downtown Detroit. The Marshall Fredericks Sculpture Museum has photos of many more of Frederick's often massive works. The Snowsuit Effort, a photographic project covering the city, has nice zoom shots of the left and right hands of the statue.