Professor Receives State History Award

Susan J. Bandes, Professor of Art History and Director of the Museum Studies Program, recently was honored by the Historical Society of Michigan with a State History Award for her book, Mid-Michigan Modern: From Frank Lloyd Wright to Googie.

The book, published in October 2016 by Michigan State University Press, explores the rich variety of modernist architecture that sprang up in the mid-Michigan area from 1940 to 1970.

“I am greatly honored to receive the State History Award for my book,” Bandes said. “The recognition is especially rewarding because it recognizes that the audience for the book goes beyond mid-Michigan to engage those interested in the architectural modernism in general.”

one woman handing an award to another woman
Susan J. Bandes (right) receiving the State History Award.

Covering more than 130 buildings, ranging from residences, commercial structures, and sacred spaces, by renowned architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Alden B. Dow, and the Keck brothers, Mid-Michigan Modern: From Frank Lloyd Wright to Googie instills a sense of appreciation for the forward-looking, progressive ideals expressed in the mid-century’s architectural designs.

“The award citation mentioned that I went beyond mere descriptions to share the human stories behind them, and that is what I hoped to accomplish in order to make the architecture of the past come alive,” Bandes said. “I also hope to make people pay more attention to our architectural heritage, to urban planning, and to what distinguishes good architectural design.”

Bandes began working on the book as an outgrowth of the State Historic Preservation Office’s Michigan Modern project that drew attention to Michigan’s contribution to modern design that had been overlooked until recently.

“I focused on an in-depth look into one community as a way to understand what modernism meant on a local level, to call attention to forgotten regional practitioners, and to expand an appreciation for the style,” Bandes said. “As an art historian, it is rare to find a topic that has not yet been researched and I enjoyed delving into primary archival sources, newspapers of the time, and interviewing members of the community to put together these stories and then to write the book so that the legacy of the people and buildings will continue.”

Each year, the Historical Society of Michigan presents State History Awards to individuals and organizations who have made outstanding contributions to the appreciation, collection, preservation, and/or promotion of state and local history. The awards are the highest recognition presented by the Society, which is the state’s official historical society and oldest cultural organization.

Bandes received her award in the category of Books: University & Commercial Press. The 2017 State History Awards were presented at the annual State History Conference in Holland, Michigan, on September 22.

Bandes also will be giving a lecture at the Historical Society of Michigan’s History Hounds Lecture Series on Wednesday, Nov. 8, at 7 p.m. at the Meijer Education Center at the Historical Society of Michigan, 5815 Executive Dr., Lansing. The lecture will explore a range of modern designs in government, association, and private buildings. For more information, visit the History Hounds Lecture Series web page.