Hubert Massey, Artist
WHEN YOU SPEND A DAY IN METRO DETROIT WITH OUT-OF-TOWNERS, WHERE DO YOU TAKE THEM AND WHY?
“I would take people on a tour of my artwork, which allows you to see Detroit history while visiting some of its best spots. I have 17 pieces in public places, from Campus Martius to the Federal Reserve Bank and Harmonie Park. First, we’d go to the Detroit Institute of Arts to see the Diego Rivera frescoes. Next, I would take them to Huntington Place to see my newest fresco Detroit – Crossroad of Innovation, which depicts Detroit as a center of innovation.
In the Charles H. Wright Museum, I designed the floor under the Ford Freedom Rotunda dome — it’s 72 feet in diameter and all terrazzo. The museum, which shares the African-American experience, is an educational facility where people walk away with true enlightenment.
When you enter the lobby of Detroit’s Atheneum Hotel, you’ll see large murals of Greek mythology. I created those 27 years ago. The Atheneum is in Greektown, where restaurants like Pegasus Taverna give visitors a real taste of the city. I also did the tile mural and sculpture piece at the Welcome Center pedestrian bridge in Mexicantown. There are great restaurants here for authentic Mexican food. My favorite is Mexican Village Restaurant.
On the east-facing side of the Detroit Foundation Hotel is a mural we just restored by Charles McGee, who is now 94. It’s been an awesome experience to see a mural like this, that was done in the ’70s, revived after all these years.
One in a Million
The Detroit Institute of Arts’ Detroit Industry frescoes, the largest in America, were painted by Diego Rivera in 1932-33. In the ‘80s, some of Rivera’s former assistants came to The D to do some restoration work on their mentor’s famous frescoes. They chose a dozen artists to help, hoping to teach them fresco techniques. Detroiter Hubert Massey was one of the 12, and is one of these invited artists who continues to practice this mural painting technique today. It’s done the same way Michelangelo did the Sistine Chapel, said Massey, using river sand, lyme, marble dust and oxidized pigments.
As Massey celebrates his latest public artwork, the fresco Detroit – Crossroad of Innovation in Huntington Place, he continues to engage the next generation of young artists and train them in the fresco technique popularized by the legendary Rivera. Just as he was decades ago.
3Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History315 E. Warren Ave., Detroit, MI 48201313-494-5800