While walking around downtown Detroit, take a closer look at some of our historic buildings. You'll likely catch a glimpse of the work of one of the city's most prolific artists.
Old friends Jennifer Baross and Jack Johnson are setting out to call attention to the architectural sculptor Corrado Parducci and his outpouring of work in the city over five decades with a new film project and a Kickstarter donation drive.
Many are familiar with the artistic details of the Penobscot or Guardian Buildings, but there's much, much more. It's said Parducci worked 16-hour days at his Detroit studios and only came home for dinner two nights a year -- Christmas and Easter.
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But there's little documentation of Parducci's work, and Baross and Johnson are setting out to change that.
"You're on this treasure hunt, and you're finding all this information, but he's still kind of elusive," said Baross. "After every lecture I was asked, 'Where can we find more?' and 'Is there any group or organization dedicated to his work?' And there's really not."
The two are each in school -- Baross finishing an undergraduate degree in Interior Design at College for Creative Studies, Johnson going for a Master of Media Studies and Communications at Wayne State University -- and started the Kickstarter, which is 16 percent funded, to pay for travel and research costs. Baross also recently launched the Parducci Society.
HuffPost Detroit caught up with Baross to talk about the hardest-working architecture sculptor you've never heard of and the documentary project "Corrado Parducci: The Man Who Made Detroit Beautiful."
What was Parducci's impact on Detroit?
He came here in 1924 and he was really doing work up until he died in 1981. He thought he was going to be here for only two months, but he was so flooded with work he called his wife in New York and said, "You're going to pack up the house, I can't come get you."
Our building boom in the 1920s was also Parducci's boom. His job book had 600 commissions. At the time, [architects like Albert Kahn, who brought Parducci to the city] were sending work to New York and it was time consuming. Instead, they could walk down the street to Parducci's firm, have lunch, give him the plans and he would come up with the designs.
Parducci was able to work in so many architectural styles. He wasn't just doing Art Deco or Neo-classical; he was doing it all, from style to style, decade to decade.
What are your favorite examples of Parducci's work?
One of my favorite Parducci buildings is the Bankers Trust building at Congress and Shelby. It is just this kind of jewel-box little building with tons of terra cotta work. He worked on it in 1925 with [architect] Wirt Rowland. There's so much going on in that building: lions, little dogs running.. so many times I've looked and said, 'How did you know all the symbolism?'
The Burbank school, I really like as well. That to me is so beautiful. The entry as you're walking in has two gryphons, and there's a beautiful piece of sculpture with an owl and Art Deco flowers. I wonder what would it be like to be a child going into a school like this and seeing all this work every day.
Many of Detroit's historic buildings have been torn down. Is any of Parducci's work at risk?
So much of his work is already lost, just by the demolition of buildings in Detroit.
The Burbank school on the east side is closed and shuttered. Of course the issue is with each of the Detroit Public Schools buildings being closed and hopefully being saved to be re-purposed. It does seem to be in good condition, but who knows what will happen?
Why did you decide to make a film?
Jack and I have been friends for many, many years. Photography was our original gig, we would take pictures together. It kind of developed from there. I'm more interested in the history of it, my fondness is for Parducci. We both take some of the photos and Jack is doing the filmmaking.
The film will cover Parducci's life story with the focus on his work and his commissions, but tell as well who Parducci was. We have interviews lined up with people who knew him, who can talk about his character.
From what I've read, people really admired him. He was a gracious man, really humble, a kind person. He was very dedicated to his work and he understood he was contributing to a big project. It was better that people enjoyed his work and his art for its beauty then to be recognized for it.
Part of the reason this Kickstarter is so critical right now is, we're going to travel to California and interview his last living son and dig through the scrapbooks and family photos.
To be blunt, why should Detroiters care about Parducci?
His work is a part of Detroit's architectural history and arts and cultural history.
Going back to the title of the film, Parducci was really the man who made Detroit beautiful. Detroit would not look the same if not for him.
Below, see a gallery of Parducci's work.
At the Guardian, Parducci's exterior work was on the two large figures, Safety and Security, flanking the entry and the circular gear-like lintel.
A detail at the Colony Club of cartouche, or crest. According to Jennifer Baross, Corrado Parducci said in an interview that he likes to drive by the Colony Club to see the cartouche, saying, "I'm very fond of that. Every time I pass it I say, "Gee, that looks good. After all these years."
Light grills at the Federal Court building.
Parducci worked on the exterior of the Standard Federal Savings and Loan Building.
Art deco at the Federal Court.
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HABS, [HABS MICH,82-DETRO,42--1]
In this photo from 1942, the top of Detroit's city hall is dwarfed by the modern Penobscot Building in the background. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, [LC-USF34-110169-C].