Considered the symbol of Detroit, the 26-foot bronze statue sculpted by Marshall Fredericks in 1958 is one of Detroit’s most easily identifiable landmarks. The monument named the Spirit of Detroit is located in downtown Detroit at the base of Woodward Avenue, across from the GM Renaissance Center.
Commissioned in 1955 for $58,000 (equivalent to $510,616 today), and dedicated in 1958, the 26-foot sculpture when first installed was the largest cast bronze statue anywhere in the world since the Renaissance. By 2013, its value was estimated at $1,000,000. Nobly, Fredericks waived his fee on the project. “He considered the job part of his civic responsibility,” the News noted in 1998. It is unquestionably one of his greatest works – and certainly his most popular.
That Glorious Name
Fredericks did not name his work the “Spirit of Detroit.” Distinctly noticeable is the gilt bronze sphere in its left hand, emanating rays to symbolize God. The golden people in the figure’s right hand are a family group. A plaque in front of the sculpture bears the inscription, “The artist expresses the concept that God, through the spirit of man is manifested in the family, the noblest human relationship.”
Its name came from the people of Detroit themselves, likely inspired by the biblical verse inscribed onto the marble wall behind the figure, 2 Corinthians 3:17: “Now the Lord is that Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
“I tried to express the spirit of man through the deity and the family,” the artist told the Detroit News. “Gradually, people began calling it ‘Spirit of Detroit.’
A Detroiter at heart
Born and raised in Detroit, I remain a die-hard Tiger fan, loyal to Vernor’s ginger ale and Motown sound. I can sing the Supremes lyrics into my hairbrush without missing a beat. My heart swells with pride to see this iconic city monument. It is synonymous with the Motor City and the dedication of those who love it. The Jolly Green Giant and I are the same age, so when I saw a photo of his refurbished state, my northern pride revived for my native city, despite its financial and social woes.
Considering how much society has changed over the last 60 years, I am delighted to see this iconic artwork boldly proclaiming spiritual truth over a city – my city, my birthplace.
So what if we as Christians united in prophetic declaration over Detroit and its surrounding suburbs, saying, “Let freedom reign in Detroit! May spiritual freedom reign. Let darkened eyes see the beauty of the God-man Christ Jesus. Let enlightenment come, bringing liberty to all in His name!” Amen
Christian author and inspirational speaker of truth that makes the darkness tremble. Author of two non-fiction books.