Cranbrook Academy of Art will receive a $30 million donation from Detroit entrepreneurs Dan and Jennifer Gilbert, the Bloomfield Hills school announced today.
The donation is the largest single gift to the school since its establishment by George and Ellen Scripps Booth in 1904, and is believed to be the largest financial donation ever to a graduate art program in the United States. It is expected to accelerate the school’s diversity, equity, and inclusion goals while supporting long-term financial sustainability.
This donation was made in response to listening to the community about the work to be done, says Jennifer Gilbert, who is chair of the board of governors of Cranbrook Academy of Art and Art Museum. She also is the founder and creative director of Detroit-based POPHOUSE, a commercial design firm.
“Our ultimate goal is to drive lasting financial stability while creating a more diverse and equitable community,” she says. “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.”
Dan Gilbert, founder and chairman of Rocket Cos., leads the Rock Family of Cos. and Quicken Loans, the Detroit-based mortgage lender.
First among the list of goals for the Cranbrook donation is funding 20 full-tuition fellowships from students from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups through the newly established Gilbert Fellows program. There will be a permanent endowment established to fund the fellowships going forward, and this gift will also provide tuition relief and financial support to the school’s existing scholarship fund.
The gift will also fund visiting faculty artists over the next five years, with a focus on artists of color, to be teaching faculty in addition to the current artists-in-residence. It will also finance “inclusion, diversity, equity, and access consultants” to continue to develop and implement plans for long-term substantive change.
Cranbrook Art Museum will also receive funding from the donation to continue public engagement projects by diverse artists such as women, those in the LGBTQIA+ community, and persons of color in both Cranbrook’s campus and the greater Detroit area.
A portion of the Gilberts’ gift is dedicated to entrepreneurship and innovation, helping the academy to find ways to bring in additional revenue and secure long-term financial security through other means besides tuition.
This gift will help the school avoid the fates peer institutions have faced as they have been forced to shutter due to financial unsustainability, says Dominic DiMarco, president of Cranbrook Educational Community. Now in its 88th year, 75 students currently live and study at the campus of the Art Academy, which offers studio practice alongside professional artists in 11 disciplines.
“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,” says DiMarco. “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.”