Lois Teicher
Lois Teicher (Teicher/Bonnell)

Artists usually worked during the day and held some sort of teaching job at night to keep a steady income.

My mother, Lois Teicher, began renting her 2,000-square-foot studio at the Atlas Building on Gratiot Avenue in Detroit in 1982. The building was a well-known artists enclave and, today at 82 years old, she is the last artist to move out of the building.

The Atlas Building, across from Eastern Market, was home to the Atlas furniture company in the 1920s. My mom decided on the Atlas Building for several reasons. “There were other artists in the building, and it’s always nice to have a community,” she said. “Plus, the rent was reasonable.” The rent was $350, and it was never raised.

For 40 years, she drove her truck and later her work van down the cobblestone street behind the building to her studio where she would ponder, create, use the Mig welder, store her work, party with other artists and have her sacred space.

Lois with some of the grandkids
Lois Teicher stands over her grandchildren: Carsen Teicher, Caden Teicher, Max Teicher, Molly Bonnell, Mischa Teicher and Emily Bonnell. Teicher/Bonnell

“We were all serious artists,” she said. “They were well known in my generation, John Piet, Gary Kulak, Christine Hagedorn, Gloria Joseph and Gary Eleinko, to name a few. We were all making art in that building, and it was wonderful.”

Teicher welded in her studio, throwing fireproof drywall on the wood floors, so nothing caught fire. “I welded my sculptures for 38 years in this raw space,” she said. “We didn’t show our work here; this was just to create the work.”

Artists usually worked during the day and held some sort of teaching job at night to keep a steady income.

“We had wonderful parties on the roof,” she said. “We looked at the city. We had music and food. It was a blast, and we danced. Whatever field you’re in, it’s nice to have your people to hang out with.”

My brothers, Noah and Joshua, and I thought the studio was the coolest place. Later, when my girls were born and old enough, I would leave them for hours with my mom at her studio. I believe the experience was life-changing for both my girls. They spent hours creating, learning from their grandmother and being messy.

My mom’s work can be seen everywhere (her sculpture outside of the Scarab Club in Detroit, for example), and her awards and accolades are endless.

New Studio

The new owners of the Atlas Building are relocating her to a new studio on Division Street in the Eastern Market, and the rent is reasonable. We’re so grateful to Sanford Nelson of FIRM Real Estate.

“Your mother, Lois, is truly a treasure,” he said. “I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to get to know her over the last couple years, and she has been a great resource of information for me given her long history in the market. I am also an admirer of her work and have collected a few pieces from her.”

Nelson says a lot of renovations need to be made to the Atlas Building because it’s in major disrepair. The six-story Atlas Building will be transformed and completed into residential apartments by 2022.

When I am 82 years old, I want to be like my mother: still working, going with the flow of life and cherishing the memories. This is the end of an era for the building, but not for my mother. She’s not slowing down; a new era begins for her in 2021.

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  1. LOVE IT LAURA!!! All so true and right on. I remember visiting her at that studio and I had one in the 2000 Brooklyn bldg until 2005 which my kids loved as well. You captured an era and ended your piece so beautifully with reference to a new beginning.

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