Looking back: Treasured painting found, on loan to DIA

Warren Weekly | Published February 5, 2014

WARREN — In 2012, a lost piece of artwork was found on the Fitzgerald Public Schools’ grounds and currently hangs at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

A district employee uncovered “Two Figures and Landscape,” painted in 1954 by late artist Hughie Lee-Smith, and school officials loaned it to the DIA, located at 5200 Woodward Ave., in Detroit. It is displayed in the museum’s African American galleries.

“Two Figures and Landscape,” which depicts a couple on a rocky shore with a calm sea beyond them, was displayed for several years inside a FPS break room. According to a DIA press release issued in 2012, the 1954 graduating class at Fitzgerald High School purchased the painting and gave it to the school district as a gift.

After reading an article on Lee-Smith, a former student realized the painting’s significance and contacted district Superintendent Barbara VanSweden about the gem. Since the painting’s discovery, FPS officials learned that FHS graduating classes from 1953 through the mid-1980s donated works of art by Michigan artists to the district.

Lee-Smith’s works are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Museum of American Art, Howard University and Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York.

Museum hours are 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays, and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. General admission (excluding ticketed exhibitions) is free for Wayne, Oakland and Macomb county residents, and DIA members. For all others, admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors ages 62 and older, and $4 for ages 6–17. For membership information, call (313) 833-7971.

— Maria Allard