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  CONTACT: Jennifer Sroka
PHONE: (313) 593-5644
DATE: Oct. 7, 2005

Modern Detroit and ancient Rome focus of class, exhibition

DEARBORN---Modern Detroit and ancient Rome may not appear to have much in common, but student researchers at UM-Dearborn have created an exhibition detailing how historic buildings in both cities have survived difficult urban transitions.

The exhibition, titled "Detroit and Rome: Building on the Past," will run from Oct. 31 through Dec. 2 at the campus's Alfred Berkowitz Gallery, located inside UM-Dearborn's Mardigian Library.

Historic architecture included in the exhibition is the first Temple Beth El (now Wayne State University's Bonstelle Theatre, top photo), which was designed by architect Albert Kahn in 1903. The building was inspired by Rome's famous Pantheon (bottom photo), a temple to 'all the gods' built in the second century.

The display, which will be free and open to the public, will feature archival and recent photographs of buildings in Detroit and Rome that have been adapted to new functions, such as the Pantheon in Rome, which now houses a Roman Catholic church, and Detroit's 1903 Temple Beth-El, which is now the Bonstelle Theatre on Woodward Avenue. Reproductions of historic images and drawings, and more recent photographs, drawings and watercolors of these and other buildings will be showcased as well.

The exhibition was researched and designed by UM-Dearborn students in the museum practice seminars taught by Melanie Grunow Sobocinski, assistant professor of art history.

"This exhibition compares the cities of Detroit and Rome, exploring the classical heritage of Detroit and similarities between urban processes in both cities," Sobocinski said. "In particular, it examines the expansion and contraction of urban populations, and the resulting effects on the architectural heritage of each city."

The exhibition also will feature a 15-minute video concerning the classical elements in Augustus Woodward's plan for the city of Detroit. The film, titled "Modern City, Ancient Past," is the work of Michele Valerie Ronnick of the Department of Classics, Greek, and Latin at Wayne State University; Kevin Piotrowski, WDET public relations director at Wayne State University; and independent/PBS producer Dave Toorongian. The film was supported by a grant from Detroit's Public Benefit Corporation.

The exhibition is a project of the Art History Museums Studies Program. A free reception to celebrate the opening of the exhibition will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 4 in the Alfred Berkowitz Gallery. Copies of the exhibition catalog may be purchased at the gallery, which is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Funding for the exhibition and accompanying catalog was provided by the Provost's Office. For more information, call (313) 593-5058.

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