Eastern Michigan University faculty emeritus, prominent Detroit artist Charles McGee remembered

Charles McGee in 2009
Faculty Emeritus and acclaimed artist Charles McGee passed away at the age of 96. McGee was featured in a 2009 issue of Eastern magazine, and photographed in his studio in Detroit. (Photo by Cara Jones)

YPSILANTI – Acclaimed artist and Faculty Emeritus Charles McGee, described as a "leading light of Detroit art," has passed away at the age of 96. McGee taught at Eastern Michigan University from the late 1960s to the 1980s and his work was featured in several campus exhibitions.

“One thing that strikes you about Charles’ work is his emphasis on interconnectivity,” Julia Myers, a professor of art history at EMU, told The Detroit Free Press in 2008. “He creates a whole ecology in his work of the relationships of people, animals, plants, whatever.”

McGee’s passing was noted in a variety of prominent publications, including The Detroit Free Press, and Detroit Public TV.

Lineage, sculpture by Charles McGee, outside the EMU Student Center
McGee's sculpture, "Lineage," is a campus feature located at the Student Center.

McGee’s art spoke with an individual voice, and his work was deeply informed by nature, a non-hierarchical view of the world and a deep sense of community, Free Press writer Mark Stryker said.

Rochelle Riley, the director of Arts and Culture for the City of Detroit, offered these words about McGee’s abiding influence on Detroit in the Detroit Public TV story:

"Detroit is held up by pillars of genius. Charles McGee was one of those pillars. He represented the greatness of our city. That he was at his best late in life is a testament to the idea of never giving up. That he nurtured the future genius of thousands of students is a testament to his character.

“He helped define Detroit. He changed our view of the world and the world's view of us. We have lost a pillar, a genius and an everlasting soul."

McGee's life and art was also featured in a 2009 story in Eastern Magazine.

About Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 16,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and, its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.

February 10, 2021

Written by:
Geoff Larcom

Geoff Larcom