The Spirit of Detroit Sculpture Celebrates 60 Years

You could call it monumental and you wouldn't be too far off. Visually, Detroit is personified by many things: cars, Joe Louis' fist, and of course, the Spirit of Detroit sculpture. It has been draped with the city's most beloved sports jerseys, has served as a selfie backdrop for metro Detroiters and tourists alike, and most of all, it represents a deep history – 60 years strong. Commissioned in 1955 by the Detroit-Wayne Joint Building Authority, the Spirit of Detroit was dedicated on Sept. 23, 1958. Internationally renowned sculptor Marshall M. Fredericks was charged with creating "a sculpture for the city to represent hope, progress, and the 'spirit of man.'"

The Journey

Work on the sculpture began in 1955 when a cast was made in Oslo, Norway.

Its Meaning

Built as a representation of the basic hope of humanity, the sculpture emphasized the symbolism of progress for the city, that the Spirit of Detroit endures forever. A plaque placed in front of the sculpture further supports the use of religion and sentimental meaning, which was important to Fredericks. The plaque reads: "God, through the spirit of man is manifested in the family, the noblest human relationship." The marble wall behind the sculpture features the seals of both the city of Detroit and Wayne County.


Other Details

In its left hand is the gilt bronze sphere emanating rays to symbolize God. Fredericks sought a consensus from representatives of several different religions when designing the God aspect of the work. According to Fredericks: "The sphere idea was the consensus. The people in the right hand is a family being lifted-up by the Spirit of Detroit."


Spirit of Detroit 60th Anniversary Celebration

Coleman A. Young Municipal Center

2 Woodward Ave., Detroit • Noon-2:30 p.m. Sept. 21

Source: Detroit-Wayne Joint Building Authority – DWJBA

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