Nicknamed the Jolly Green Giant, the 26-foot-tall Spirit of Detroit has been the symbol of the city since 1958, when it was installed at the entrance of the new home of Detroit and Wayne County government business. Sculptor Marshall M. Fredericks (1908-1998) chose to convey the city’s human spirit in the seated man who gazes at a family, embodying human relationships, perched in his right hand. In his left hand, he lifts a gilt sphere with rays symbolizing God. For the bronze figure’s green patina, Fredericks applied acid to achieve the oxidation that would have taken untold years to develop naturally.
Inscribed on the white marble wall behind the sculpture is the verse from 2 Corinthians that inspired the artist: “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” Fredericks did not name the statue Spirit of Detroit; the moniker evolved organically as the community embraced the monument. Now, the iconic figure appears on everything from the city’s official documents to (unsanctioned) shot glasses and T-shirts.
The prolific Fredericks’ works are found throughout the Detroit area and at more than 150 sites across the U.S. and in several other countries. The Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum near Saginaw displays plaster molds (above, left) used to create his bronze pieces and offers a glimpse into his method through display of his tools and materials.
This article originally appeared in the 2018 spring/summer issue of Experience Michigan magazine. The contents of this article were checked for accuracy when it was published; however, it’s possible some of the information has changed. We recommend you call first if you have specific questions for the destinations, attractions or restaurants mentioned in this article.
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