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BBAC brings together world’s ‘Sacred Treasures’

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published February 3, 2015

 Stephanie Tower, of Oak Park, left, and Stevie Tower, 15, of Detroit, look at tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl.

Stephanie Tower, of Oak Park, left, and Stevie Tower, 15, of Detroit, look at tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl.

Photo by Sarah Purlee


BIRMINGHAM — For thousands of years, the differences between the many religions of the world have created barriers between cultures and people.

But sometimes, there are pieces of each faith — from stories and symbols to even ceremonies — that can actually bring people together and show just how similar sacred beliefs are at their core.

Now through the end of March, guests will be able to compare and contrast the different faiths of the world for themselves when they visit “Sacred Treasures,” a new exhibit at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center. The collection features more than 100 items from Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Native American and Sikh faith practices.

As visitors inspect the rugs, prayer books, jewelry, sculptures, head coverings and other items, they’ll start to get an idea of what the basic principles of each tradition are, and how each religion relates to its counterparts.

The exhibition was curated by Nancy Thayer, a professor at the University of Michigan School of Art and Design and a board member of the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit. She said she approached the BBAC to put together the display two years ago, and it took until now to bring the collection together.

“It’s a really extraordinary collection. We have priceless things from the Archdiocese of Detroit, Temple Israel, things Pope John Paul II gave to the Archdiocese of Detroit, head coverings from Jewish, Muslim, African-American and Catholic (faiths),” said Thayer. “We have prayer beads from all the traditions: Native Americans, rosaries, Muslim prayer beads, Sikh; it’s very interesting to see the collection of them all in one place.”

The exhibit opened last month to vibrant crowds and rave reviews, according to  BBAC President and CEO Annie VanGelderen.

“It’s really interesting to see how different and unique, yet similar these artifacts are in how they provide inspiration or provide a sense of meditation in their symbolism,” said VanGelderen, who noted that some of the objects are relics, while others are more contemporary pieces of artwork.

Thayer said that, to her knowledge, such an exhibit hasn’t been presented before in Michigan.

“Oh, we’ve gotten just high, high praise,” she said. “People from clear across every faith tradition and perhaps those not from a faith community attended, and everyone was just really taken with it. It’s a really unique opportunity to see all these kinds of objects shown in one gallery.”

Sacred Treasures is free and open to the public during regular hours, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The exhibit will run through March 27. For more information, call (248) 644-0866 or visit

The Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center is located at 1516 S. Cranbrook Road in Birmingham.