Saarinen House Named to Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios Program

Public invited to virtual lecture presented by Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research featuring Valerie Balint of the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Saarinen House Living Room photograph by James Haefner.

Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research is pleased to announce that on February 10, 2021, Saarinen House was accepted into the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios (HAHS) program. Saarinen House joins three other preserved homes and studios of significant American women artists that are open to the public that were added to the prestigious coalition of 48 sites.

“These sites preserve the complex stories of four women artists who were groundbreaking in art and arts education, each contributing not only through their own artwork, but through the mentorship, opportunity, and influence they provided to younger and upcoming artists,” said HAHS Senior Program Manager Valerie Balint. “By placing these women’s inspiring stories at the forefront, HAHS and the National Trust are helping to fulfil a vital need for more gender equity in how we frame artistic heritage and hierarchy. We will continue to expand the membership in 2021 to bring on other sites whose compelling stories increase racial diversity and social equity.”

Saarinen House is the Saarinen family’s Art Deco masterwork and one of Cranbrook Educational Community’s architectural treasures. Designed in the late 1920s, Saarinen House is located at the heart of Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. From 1930 through 1950, Saarinen House served as the home and studio of the Finnish-American artist couple Loja Saarinen (1879-1968)—the Academy’s first head of the Weaving Department—and Eliel Saarinen (1873-1950)—Cranbrook’s first resident architect and the Academy of Art’s first president and the head of the Architecture Department.

The restored interior features the Saarinens’ original furnishings, including Eliel’s delicately veneered furniture and Loja’s sumptuous textiles, as well as early furniture designs by their son, Eero Saarinen. Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research, in partnership with Cranbrook Art Museum, is responsible for stewarding the collections of Saarinen House and opening its doors to visitors from around the world. The 2021 tour season begins May 1 with tours designed to safely accommodate six guests.

“My colleagues and I at Cranbrook are honored by this opportunity,” said Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research Director Gregory Wittkopp, “one that will not only help us share the story of Saarinen House and the makers that lived and worked there with curious people from around the world, but also help us foreground the story of Loja Saarinen, who is often overshadowed by her husband, the architect Eliel Saarinen.”

In honor of this milestone in the history of Saarinen House as a public museum, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research will be hosting Genius Loci: A Tour of America’s Historic Artist’s Homes and Studios with Balint as the guest speaker.

Drawing from her new publication, Guide to Historic Artists’ Homes & Studios, Balint will use contemporary and period photographs, portraits, and artwork to show the powerful influence of place—genius loci—on American greats such as Frederick Church, Thomas Cole, Russell Wright, Grant Wood, Lee Krasner, and Donald Judd, as well as lesser-known but equally creative figures who made important contributions to cultural history.

The Genius Loci presentation will identify connections and commonalities with Saarinen House, focusing on artists’ homes and studios as expressions of tangible biography, as well as places for artistic practice. Balint will discuss how visual artists consistently use their homes as laboratories to experiment with architecture, landscape architecture, collecting, curation, assemblage, and interior design.

This virtual lecture will take place on Sunday, March 14, 2021, at 3 p.m. Admission is $20 per viewer (free for Cranbrook Academy of Art and Cranbrook Schools students). Registration is required in advance online.

For more information and to register for the Genius Loci virtual lecture and Saarinen House tours, please visit center.cranbrook.edu.