A pizzeria and pastry shop in Redford, Michigan has more than just calzones and cannoli, it’s also home to Italian immigrant Silvio Barile’s Italian American Artistic Museum. A sculptor for over five decades, the museum combines his birthplace and new home with not just statuary but strange and somewhat confusing “exhibits”. One is titled Museo-Della Civilta-Romana (Museum of Roman Civilization) that includes old Italian postcards, a portrait of Pope John Paul II (the new Pope gets a shout out too), some nun dolls, a Julius Caesar statue along with the Statue of Liberty, a Napoleon bust, a Canadian Mountie on horseback, Detroit Red Wings bobble heads and a cowboy doll wearing an oversized copper hat. Something tells me I missed that one history class where the teacher talked about Caesar playing hockey. Oops!
But the olive-tree and clutter filled interior is nothing compared to what visitors find behind this homemade pizza parlor museum. The number of statues increase in not just quantity, but size. There is a concrete Vesuvius erupting red lava blobs next to a yellow day-glo cement rendition of the Alamo. A glittering and smiling Julius Caesar, below a Roman triumphal arch, is titled “For George Bush and the People of America”. And why you might ask? According to Silvio, he likes Bush because neither of them know how to spell. Yeah, but can Bush sculpt and sing opera and make pizza at the same time? I don’t think so. Across the back alley is “Silvio’s American Forum”, a maze of monumental sculptures and obelisks, some towering 25 feet high, of subjects that include George Washington, Louis Armstrong, the fantasy marriage of John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, the Three Stooges and Silvio himself dressed in Roman regalia. His statues are all made of pebbles and glass mortared directly into cement, so they kind of all look the same to most visitors. Therefore, Silvio identifies each one with inscribed Roman-style capital letters (of course). Maybe that’s not a great idea from a curatorial perspective, but this isn’t your everyday museum. Arrivederci!
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