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Announcement
April 9, 2021

Gift from Jennifer and Dan Gilbert to create pathways for inclusion, diversity, equity and access

Cranbrook Academy of Art

Cranbrook Academy of Art and Art Museum. Photo: PD Rearick.

This week, Cranbrook Academy of Art received a transformational gift of 30 million USD from Jennifer and Dan Gilbert to accelerate the school’s efforts surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion, and to drive long-term fiscal sustainability. The gift is the largest single gift in Cranbrook’s history since its establishment by George and Ellen Scripps Booth in 1904 and is also believed to be the largest financial donation ever to a graduate art program in the United States.

Cranbrook Academy of Art is the nation’s top-ranked school devoted exclusively to graduate education in fine art, architecture, craft, and design. The Gilberts’ gift will ensure the Academy maintains its position as a leader in post-graduate education and fund multifaceted strategies to build a more equitable and diverse community.

"This gift is a response to the learnings of the past several years. We listened to a broad community of stakeholders and understand that there’s a lot of work to be done,” said Jennifer Gilbert, who also serves as Chair of the Board of Governors of Cranbrook Academy of Art and Art Museum. “Our ultimate goal is to drive lasting financial stability while creating a more diverse and equitable community. We know it’s not a silver bullet, but a step in the right direction. Dan and I hope that the gift grants the Academy space to develop long-term solutions, and that it encourages others to join us in giving."

Gilbert continued, "Cranbrook is a world-class learning institution not only because of its pedagogy and the incredible artists it has fostered but its focus on peer and community feedback. We need a purposeful commitment to welcome underrepresented voices into these studios and conversations."

The gift will fund 20 full-tuition fellowships for students from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups through the newly established Gilbert Fellows program. It will also establish a permanent endowment to fund the fellowships in perpetuity. Additionally, the gift will provide tuition relief and general support for the Academy’s existing scholarship fund to expand assistance to eligible students.

Furthermore, the gift will fund visiting faculty artists over the next five years, with a focus on artists of color. The positions will be teaching faculty in addition to the current artists-in-residence. It will also finance Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access (IDEA) consultants to continue to develop and implement plans for long-term change.

Cranbrook Art Museum will also receive funding to continue public engagement projects by diverse artists, including women, LGBTQIA+ and persons of color, in both the Detroit area and on Cranbrook’s campus.

Finally, the gift will allow the Academy to launch new initiatives to help secure financial sustainability. This portion of the Gilberts’ gift is dedicated to entrepreneurship and innovation, allowing the Academy to develop, test, and launch ideas that will spur much-needed additional revenue.

“The Academy's campus designer and first president, Eliel Saarinen, had a vision of Cranbrook Academy of Art as a creative utopia, believing that the best way for artists to learn was from each other. We still believe in this vision, and that fostering a diverse and inclusive community is critical to its pursuit. We are thankful that through the generous support of the Gilberts, we can continue to provide the best environment for innovation and artistic entrepreneurship in the world,” said Dominic DiMarco, President of Cranbrook Educational Community. "It is our belief that by investing in underrepresented change makers, we will position creatives at the forefront of helping to solve the problems of our increasingly complex world."

For nearly nine decades, Cranbrook Academy of Art has been committed to the pursuit of fine art, architecture, design, and craft. Working in an environment of peer-to-peer and interdisciplinary learning, students are free to explore and deliver creative solutions. This approach has consistently produced some of the world’s leading artists, architects, and designers from Charles and Ray Eames, Florence Knoll and Harry Bertoia, to Nick Cave, Sonya Clark, McArthur Binion, Chris Schanck, Duane Hanson and Hani Rashid.

According to acclaimed visual artist Nick Cave, a 1988 graduate of Cranbrook Academy of Art’s Fiber department, “Cranbrook was extremely important to me in the development of my work but struggled with the lack of diversity on campus. Detroit became equally important, though opposite, as a way to balance my life at that time. Operating in the world with multiple perspectives is critical, especially during grad school in order to really explore the depth of your work and learn how others may be receiving it. Today this idea of seeing and hearing through multiple lenses and various perspectives is more important than ever, and this gift is a powerful way to facilitate those connections and inevitable steps forward.”

For more information about Jennifer and Dan Gilbert and the gift, please visit cranbrookart.edu.

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