Monday, August 8, 2011

The Quo Vadis

I'm not gonna lie; this post isn't gonna specifically connect with anyone outside of Metro Detroit. But don't leave just yet - I think if you have a heart for history, an ache for things torn down, and fabulous free finds - you just might enjoy it!

This is the Quo Vadis.  It means "where are you going?" in Latin and it is was a movie theatre in Westland, Michigan (a Western suburb of Detroit, where I just so happen to live.)  The structure opened in 1966 and was designed by Minoru Yamasaki, most well known for designing the World trade Centers.  The outside features a very modernistic appearance while the interior once featured a Romanistic design.  It was regarded as a movie palace for its plush environment and cocktail lounge.  It was one of the first cinemas to offer cocktails to its patrons and was well known for its "Over 21 Club" lounge on the second floor. {credit to Wikipedia}

Here is an image of the lower level, with the most exquisite blue and gold tiles surrounding the perimeter.

 Here is a close-up of said gorgeous tiles.

Unfortunately, the Quo Vadis was closed in 2002, and despite local efforts of preservation, demolition began in 2011.  This is halfway through the project.

One day in June, I was riding my bike by the remains of the Quo Vadis.  I was considering turning to go home but felt like taking the long way.

I am SO GLAD I took the long way.

Apparently it was the last couple of days of clean up from the demolition and I felt kind of bold.  Kind of crazy.  Kind of...wanting...those...tiles...

I do mosaics, so how COOL would it be to do a mosaic with some tiles from the Quo Vadis!?  Like a little piece of history + handmade art all in one!

So I stop riding my bike, and yell out to the construction guy to come over to the fence around the site.  He comes over, and I ask what is happening with the pile of tiles, might it be going up for auction or something?  He says that someone bought them and is going to be using them in a mural in some auto dealership somewhere.  I gave him my best sad-eyed-puppy-dog look, and told him I make mosaics and was hoping I could have some.  He said, my boss is leaving, go to the other side of the fence, I'll meet you in 5 minutes.

I felt like some type of top secret spy!

Or at least a girl about to acquire something rare and awesome!

*Side Note* So I ride my bike with a super ghetto bright orange milk crate zip-tied to the front.  I know - SUPER embarassing, but I pretend it's a chic little basket and put fresh produce and bread in it like I'm in France or something.  Most of the time I just put my 22 lb. Boston Terrier, Chase in it:

So cute.  So tubby.  Haha this is actually a pic of us in line at the drive thru at the bank.  Needless to say, they were a tad confused, yet pleasantly surprised!

I digress!  So the construction guy ends up LOADING my whole ghetto milk crate full of tile (still attached to the cement).  I was so overjoyed I didn't know what to do, but ride home and take pictures of my new FREE treasure:

Look at that gorgeous tile!!  I wasn't sure what to do with it quite yet, until my sister asked me to make her something using some of the tiles.  She said she had fond memories there so I decided to make her a frame.

Using the above photo as my inspirational guideline, I came up with this:

I painted the top 2/3 with Folk Art Metallic Gold, and the bottom 1/3 with Delta Ceramcoat Ultra Blue.  I placed the Quo Vadis blue tiles on top of that using Weldbond glue, but no grout.  I used two pegs, painted Delta Ceramcoat Azure Blue to hold up the "billboard".  For the billboard I cut two pieces of white cardstock and glued them together for appropriate thickness, and used foam tape to make it stand out against the frame.  I edged the billboard with Colorbox yellow ink, and made lines in pencil.  The top was a Colorbox aqua ink, and I used white alphabet stickers for the QUO VADIS.  For the NOW SHOWING, I used some other alphabet stickers, and dabbed Colorbox red ink on them.  On top I coated it with Distress Crackle Paint in Rock Candy.  This caused the red to bleed, but I liked the effect so I kept it.  I also put some Delta Ceramcoat Crackle Paint (a two step process) on top of the gold to give it an aged look.

My niece Cassidy (2 years old) and my sister, Tamme.  I'm not much of a movie-goer, but they're a show I'd like to see! :-)

I really hope you enjoyed this, I know it's kind of a long and crazy post.  I'd love to hear from you if you've ever had some local place that meant a lot to you be torn down.  Did you ever wish you could get a piece of it?  Or were you lucky and scored something? Let me know!

From trash to treasure,


  1. I love what you did with the tile. And what a beautiful color!


  2. Great job! One day, I am going to use so much tile in a home by the sea, it is going to be sweet. One day . . .

  3. i was just googling to find out what happened to the quo vadis and found this site. i saw my first movies there!
    I would had bought something like that frame just to have something and know it was authentic.

    -2000 miles away from ann arbor trail visitor :)

  4. Special places deserve to be remembered with unique momentos like your frame. It's awesome!

  5. What an awesome story! I wouldn't have been so brave. Sounds like you like to make stuff for your sister too :)

  6. Thanks all for your wonderful comments!! Very inspiring =]

  7. Kristina you are amazing to even think of doing something like that. Especially knowing history of the theater. I know I was sad when they tore it down, but never thought much about it after. You are very talented!!

  8. I saw E.T. There when it first came out and I was 5 at the time. It was my first movie at a theater. So many great memories there as a kid. We lived at Farmington and Ann Arbor Trail. Thank you for the pics. It brings back memories of this awesome theater and my childhood.


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