A can-do attitude: Law firm helps sponsor Detroit Canstruction Design/Build exhibit at DIA

By Carl Bookstein

Legal News

Artfully constructed sculpture turned into food for the hungry as the law firm of Miller Canfield helped sponsor the 2011 Detroit Canstruction Design/Build exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) from October 26-30.

Giant sculptures made completely of canned food were on display highlighting the event's theme -- "You Can't Spell Food without the D." Sculptures of iconic Detroit images and landmarks included representations from the Renaissance Center to an oversized bottle of Vernors.

All the cans used in the exhibit were donated to Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan, headquartered in Detroit and feeding the hungry of southeast Michigan. As Detroit Canstruction raised awareness about hunger issues while nourishing families in need, thousands of vegetable, soup, and other canned goods were used as the building blocks. Unique works of art were thus built by teams of local architects, designers, engineers, contractors, and students, according to Amanda Van Dusen, an attorney with Miller Canfield and one of the judges of the contest.

Miller Canfield had its finger on the pulse of a great cause, providing food for those in need while showcasing the design work of local architects, students, and other professionals.

On October 25, the day before the DIA exhibit, undergrad juniors Erica, Brie and Mary from the College of Creative Studies stacked cans of white potatoes, green beans, spinach and chunk light tuna in careful fashion as they built their can-sculpted version of the Detroit landmark Fist of the Champion.

The competing teams assembling the food can sculptures included Albert Kahn Associates, Detroit; HKS Architects, Northville; Kraemer Design Group, Detroit; Quinn Evans Architects, Ann Arbor; Smith Group, Detroit; TMP Architecture, Bloomfield Hills; College of Creative Studies Interiors Department, Detroit; and the University of Detroit Mercy American Institute of Architect Students (AIAS), Detroit.

The team from Albert Kahn Associates was a double winner at the event, claiming the "Jurors' Favorite" and the "Structural Ingenuity" awards. The team built an oversized bottle of Vernors and a bag of Better Made potato chips out of food cans. According to Van Dusen, the team from Kahn was "very out of the box in its approach to the design and execution of the construction."

TMP Architecture won the award for the healthiest "Best Meal."

"They hit all the food groups in a very healthy way," Van Dusen said.

This is the first Canstruction competition that has been held at the DIA, although Canstruction contests and food drives have been held around the world and date back to 1992.

Carmen Mattia, who works with Gleaners Food Bank, called the event "a great way to give back to the community," noting that the thousands of cans used were all donated to the hungry of southeast Michigan.

Rachel Falcone is an intern architect with Albert Kahn Associates, which paid homage to Vernors and Better Made Potato Chips with special sculpture. She noted the irony of building an ode to junk food with cans of healthy foods. Working in precise fashion, the Kahn team constructed its sculpture with home-style baked beans, chunk light tuna, as well as cans of wax beans and mushrooms.

The architecture firm team TMP created the "Ren(can)ssance Center," building its monument with cans of carrots placed with care and perfection. Observing the creation, one could clearly see architects and designers at work.

Anne Cox of the Kahn firm calls it "a balancing act," saying the team had to practice stacking its Vernors and potato chips constructions again and again in preparation for the competition to prepare against "can-plosion."

"What a great combination! Feeding the hungry while feeding the soul with these creative works at the DIA," said Van Dusen, a partner and public law group leader at Miller Canfield.

The event sponsors included: American Institute of Architects Detroit, Miller Canfield, Detroit Institute of Arts, Construction Association of Michigan, Kroger, and Gleaners Community Food Bank.

According to Van Dusen, the event raised 17,000 cans of food to be dispensed by Gleaners, which distributes more than 40 million pounds of food in a year.

"The sad thing is, the need in southeast Michigan is growing," Van Dusen says.

Van Dusen has been working for Miller Canfield for 30 years and has "been gratified with the commitment the law firm makes to the city of Detroit."

"The energy we saw here at the DIA," Van Dusen says, "is more evidence of the resurgence of Detroit and the creative spirit that's going to drive the rebuilding of our city."

Published: Thu, Nov 17, 2011

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