Genius Loci: A Tour of America’s Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios

Sunday, March 14th 3:00pm - 4:15pm
Cranbrook Center Virtual Lecture
Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304

$20 per Viewer
Lecture will be Password-Protected
Advance Registration is Required

Free for Cranbrook Academy of Art and Cranbrook Schools Students (register by sending an email from your Cranbrook email address to

Presented by Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

Guest Speaker:
Valerie Balint, Senior Program Manager, Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios, National Trust for Historic Preservation

Gregory Wittkopp, Director, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

This presentation was recorded and is available for viewing at the original ticket price. Please email for further information on accessing this lecture.

From the desert vistas of Georgia O’Keefe’s New Mexico ranch to Winslow Homer’s studio on the rocky, windswept cost of southern Maine, the homes and studios of illustrious American artists are sites of extraordinary creativity. Forty-four of the nation’s most celebrated homes and studios have been part of a national coalition of independent museums, the Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. On February 10, 2021, the National Trust added four more sites to this prestigious network—one of them is Saarinen House. Join your friends at Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research as we both celebrate this milestone in the history of Saarinen House as a public museum and learn about some of the other forty-seven sites in this nationwide network.

Our guide for this armchair journey across America will be Valerie Balint, the program manager of Historic Artist’s Homes and Studios (HAHS). Drawing from her new publication, Guide to Historic Artists’ Homes & Studios, Balint will use contemporary and period photographs, portraits, and artwork to show the powerful influence of place—genius loci—on American greats such as Frederick Church, Thomas Cole, Russell Wright, Grant Wood, Lee Krasner, and Donald Judd, as well as lesser-known but equally creative figures who made important contributions to cultural history.

Drawing from this rich network of member sites, Balint will identify connections and commonalities with Saarinen House, focusing on artists' homes and studios as expressions of tangible biography, as well as places for artistic practice. She will discuss how visual artists consistently use their homes as laboratories to experiment with architecture, landscape architecture, collecting, curation, assemblage, and interior design.

While Saarinen House is often identified with the architect Eliel Saarinen, Balint’s story—indeed, the reason for the museum’s recent inclusion in the HAHS network—celebrates the life and career of the home’s other celebrated resident, the Finnish-American weaver and designer Loja Saarinen. Balint’s lecture will introduce us to other sites that, like Saarinen House, are striving to elevate the historical narratives and contributions of women artists associated with these preserved places. To learn more about the new cohort of HAHS sites, recently announced by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, please read their press release

Valerie Balint is the Senior Program Manager for Historic Artist’s Homes and Studios (HAHS), a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the author of the newly released Guide to Historic Artists' Homes and Studios (Princeton Architectural Press, 2020). Prior to heading HAHS, beginning in spring 2017, Balint served for seventeen years on the curatorial staff at Frederic Church’s Olana (also a HAHS site), most recently as Interim Director of Collections and Research, where she was co-organizer and co-curator of Olana’s annual exhibitions and accompanying publications. She is a frequent lecturer and writer on preserved artists’ spaces, Frederic Church, the Hudson River School, and American art and social history of the mid-19th and early 20th centuries. She is co-author of Glories of the Hudson: Frederic Church’s Views from Olana (Cornell Press, 2009). Her previous work also includes curatorial positions at Chesterwood, the former home and studio of sculptor Daniel Chester French and the base for the HAHS program, and the Frelinghuysen Morris House & Studio (also a HAHS site). She served as the New York State Coordinator of “Save Outdoor Sculpture,” a program of the Smithsonian American Art Museum to document all public sculpture in the United States. Balint is a longtime advocate for recognizing and valuing the important place artists’ homes and public art hold within the greater context of cultural history in America. 

Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios network is a peer-to-peer coalition of sites that brings these museums together to conserve the legacy of creativity in the visual arts in the United States. Since its establishment by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1999, HAHS has developed into a successful community of practice, working with forty-eight member sites that welcome more than one million visitors in nearly every part of the United States. This network of sites leverages the knowledge and experience of individual members to benefit the entire coalition in critical areas, including historic preservation, visitor and community programming, and communications. For more information, visit the HAHS website:

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places. For more information, visit the National Trust’s website:

Saarinen House is the Saarinen family’s Art Deco masterwork and the jewel of Cranbrook's architectural treasures. Designed in the late 1920s and located at the heart of Cranbrook Academy of Art, from 1930 through 1950 Saarinen House served as the home and studio of the Finnish-American designer Eliel Saarinen—Cranbrook’s first resident architect and the Art Academy’s first president and the head of the Architecture Department—and the Finnish-American designer Loja Saarinen—the Academy’s first head of the Weaving Department. The extraordinary interior, now impeccably restored, features the Saarinens’ original furnishings, including Eliel’s delicately veneered furniture and Loja’s sumptuous textiles, as well as early furniture designs by their son, Eero Saarinen.

The Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research, in partnership with Cranbrook Art Museum, is responsible for stewarding the collections of Saarinen House and opening its doors to visitors from around the world. The 2021 tour season begins May 1 with tours—designed to safely accommodate six guests—currently scheduled through August 29.  Fall tours will be added to the schedule later in the spring.  Staff-led Public tours take place on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3:30pm Eastern Time. Private tours and group tours also are available.  For more information, or to purchase tickets, please visit the Saarinen House webpage or call the Center at 248.645.3307. 


Gari Melchers Home and Studio, View of the Studio, Falmouth, Virginia. Courtesy of Gari Melchers Home and Studio, University of Mary Washington, Falmouth, Virginia.

Frelinghuysen Morris House & Studio, View of the Studio, Lenox, Massachusetts. Photograph by Geoffrey Gross. Courtesy Frelinghuysen Morris House & Studio.

N.C. Wyeth House & Studio, View of the Studio, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. Photograph by Dan Jackson. Courtesy Brandywine River Museum of Art, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.

Frederic Church’s Olana, View of Court Hall, Hudson, New York. Photograph by Nicholas Whitman, 2008. © Nicholas Whitman Photography. Courtesy Olana State Historic Site.

Valerie A. Balint. Courtesy of Valerie A. Balint.

Cover of Guide to Historic Artists’ Homes & Studios by Valerie A. Balint (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2020) showing the studio at Chesterwood, Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Photograph by Don Freeman, 2019. Courtesy of Valerie A. Balint.

Eliel and Loja Saarinen House, Dining Room, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Photograph by James Haefner, 2015. Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.