Josephine F. Ford Sculpture Garden

Located at the corner of East Kirby and John R. in Detroit’s Cultural Center on the Walter and Josephine Ford Campus of
the College for Creative Studies


Henry and Clara Ford had only one child, Edsel, born in November, 1893.  In 1916, he married Eleanor Lowtian Clay who was the niece of J. L. Hudson, the founder of the Hudson department store chain and the Hudson Motor Company.  Edsel Ford and Eleanor Clay were the parents of four children.  Their third child, Josephine Clay Ford, was born in 1923 and lived until 2005.  She was the only granddaughter of Henry and Clara Ford.  She married and bore four children.

As an heir to the Ford Company resources, she did not face financial difficulties.  She and her husband established a foundation and donated millions to it.  After her death in 2005, her estate provided generous support for at least three Detroit area institutions: the Detroit Institute of Art, the College for Creative Studies and the Josephine Ford Cancer at the Henry Ford Hospital.  I do not know the extent of her estate, but her worth was estimated to be in excess of $400 million shortly after the turn of this millennium.  At the time of her death, she owned about 20 percent of the Class A shares in Ford, the valuable shares that had voting rights.

The College of Creative Studies probably obtained $50 million or more from the will of Josephine Clay Ford, making that institute the most highly endowed arts college in the United States.  They accomplished many changes following the arrival of the Josephine Ford endowment.  They purchased the Argonaut Building in the New Center area that Albert Kahn designed in the late 1920s for the research scientists employed by General Motors.  The College converted that into a major teaching center for their college, along with dormitory space for students and loft space for artists.  They also took the landscape in front of their unique Kresge-Ford building designed by William Kessler and turned it into the Josephine Ford Sculpture Garden.  There are about a dozen pieces of art on display including one by Alexander Calder.  A description of most or all of them is available by clicking on the hyperlinks below.  I believe that the majority of the sculptures are owned by the Detroit Institute of Art.

In the summer of 2011, the following sculptures were displayed in the Josephine F. Ford Sculpture Garden:

Ashtabula (James L. Lawton, 1978)

Chair (Albert Paley, 1992)

Goddess of the Golden Thighs (Reuben Nakian, 1964)

Grand Couple (Etienne Martin, 1947)

Hip and Spine Stone Chair Setting (Robert Nonas, 1997)

Mozarabe (Richard Serra, 1971)

Normanno Wedge I (Beverly Popper, 1983)

Upfront (Anthony Caro, 1971)

The X and Its Tails (Alexander Calder, 1967)

Date of installation: 2008
Use in 2011: Public art
City of Detroit Designated Historic District: Not listed
State of Michigan Registry of Historic Sites: Not listed
National Registry of Historic Places: Not listed
Description Updated: August, 2011

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