For 60 years, the Spirit of Detroit has sat at the corner of Woodward Avenue and Jefferson Avenue and has inspired Detroiters.

For 60 years, the Spirit of Detroit has sat at the corner of Woodward Avenue and Jefferson Avenue and has inspired Detroiters.

Photo by Sean Work


Region celebrates 60th anniversary of the Spirit of Detroit

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published September 28, 2018

 Detroit-Wayne Joint Building Authority board members Lugene Nelson, left, and Sharon Madison, right, receive a proclamation celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Spirit of Detroit monument from U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

Detroit-Wayne Joint Building Authority board members Lugene Nelson, left, and Sharon Madison, right, receive a proclamation celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Spirit of Detroit monument from U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

Photo by Brendan Losinski

DETROIT — The Spirit of Detroit is one of Detroit’s most recognizable sites and a monument that encapsulates the Detroit experience for many people. 

On Sept. 21, the statue’s 60th anniversary was celebrated with a ceremony at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center in Detroit, which the statue sits outside of. The Spirit of Detroit is overseen by the Detroit-Wayne Joint Building Authority, the owners and stewards of the landmark.

“The Spirit of Detroit is unique,” said Sharon Madison, the chair of the Detroit-Wayne Joint Building Authority. “Our building committee is the oldest in the country, and when they commissioned the Spirit of Detroit, they did it to commemorate the people of Detroit.”

Sitting at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Woodward Avenue, the 26-foot tall titan has watched over downtown Detroit for decades. It’s iconic pose has become one of the most recognizable images of the city.

“It’s the largest cast-bronze statue created since the Renaissance,” said Madison. “In one hand, you have the sunlight, symbolizing the love of God. Artist Marshall Fredericks consulted leaders from several different faiths on how to portray this idea. … In the other hand is a family, representing the people of Detroit and how God works through people.”

The ceremony included the presentation of resolutions honoring the Spirit of Detroit’s 60th anniversary by the Wayne County Commission, the Detroit City Council and Wayne County Executive Warren Evans. Poems were read by Detroit poet Jessica Care Moore and Detroit Public Schools student Donell Johnson. Those in attendance also enjoyed a jazz performance by the Spirit of Detroit Band.

Among those who spoke at the event was U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow. She said the Spirit of Detroit is more than a well-made piece of art; it’s a sign of the community’s undying optimism.

“I think this is a wonderful celebration, not only because of this wonderful sculpture, but because it shows the commitment and resilience of our community,” said Stabenow. “Detroit and Michigan have had ups and downs, but people are inspiring others to keep our improvements going, just as this statue has been inspiring people for decades.”

Stabenow spoke about how the creation of the Spirit of Detroit was a long and arduous process to determine how to best capture the essence of the city.

“Marshall Fredericks perfected this out of a long process of deciding how to best portray the spirit of Detroit,” said Stabenow. “Should it be one figure or two? Should the arms be outstretched or not? What should be held in its hands? Sixty years later, this statue is still inspiring people.”

The celebration, which was moved indoors due to rain, also was the beginning of a new art initiative for Wayne County students.

“We’re also using this occasion to kick off the Show Your Spirit Detroit initiative,” said Madison. “In Wayne County Schools, kids will use music, visual arts, dance and other forms to highlight the city’s creativity and connectivity. There will be a competition in the spring to demonstrate these projects.”

The goal of the project is to enhance, support and promote young artists so that the youths of Detroit have opportunities to create the next Detroit landmark.

“We want every single child to have a love of the arts,” Madison said. “We want them to show what the Spirit of Detroit means to them in their chosen art form.”

More information on the Show Your Spirit Detroit initiative can be found at www.caymc.com/toc.cfm.