January 15, 1997

Auto show features WSU art along with cars of the future

Mixed in with the traditional display of shiny new cars of all shapes, sizes and colors, the 1997 North American International Auto Show in Cobo Hall featured a not-so-traditional design created by Wayne State University art faculty, students and alumni.

More surprising was the setting for the art-in-progress: the exhibition area displaying the 1998 Mercedes-Benz SLK roadster, which was selected as Car of the Year by an independent jury of 47 auto journalists.

The creative art collaboration, "Hands of Detroit," is a large three-dimensional painting using hands as a universal symbol of welcome and communication among all peoples.

Each year major auto shows take place in countries with diverse cultures and customs in such large host cities as Tokyo, Geneva, Torino, Birmingham and Detroit. Mercedes-Benz participates in most.

For the Detroit show, Mercedes-Benz highlighted its established theme of global and local community through the international language of art.

Project supervisor Peter Williams, associate professor of art and art history, selected 15 students and recent alumni to represent a cross-section of men and women from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

"This project provides our students an opportunity not only to conceive, create and present an original installation, but also allows them to work directly with a major corporation," Williams says. "Through this process they will discover the historical relationship of the artist and the patron."

The exhibit area constructed of cargo containers that travel around the world acquired the desired global-local linkage when coupled with the local art initiative.

The artists started painting in late December and continued throughout the show. They will continue their cultural exchange by traveling this spring to the auto show in Barcelona, Spain.

Graduate student Jocelyn Rainey says, "This has been a wonderful experience in many ways. To be involved in a project where industry embraces the arts is a dream come true. 'Hands of Detroit' is an experience I will carry with me always."

Representatives of the manufacturer say they are delighted both with the partnership and the talent demonstrated by the young artists. "We are proud to honor these students and, through them, to thank our host the city of Detroit for its hospitality," said Jochen Plaecking, vice president, marketing communication, Mercedes-Benz AG.

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