Dan and Jennifer Gilbert donate $ 30 million to the Cranbrook Academy of Art


Cranbrook Academy of the Arts Campus

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Dan Gilbert, the billionaire founder of Quicken Loans, and his wife, Jennifer, donate $ 30 million to the Cranbrook Academy of Art to expand diversity, equity, access and inclusion efforts across the graduate art school located in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, north of Detroit.

The news comes less than two weeks after the Gilbert Family Foundation and the Rocket Community Fund, a unit of Quicken’s Rocket Mortgage, announced that they would collectively donate US $ 500 million to the city of Detroit over 10 years to secure opportunities. economic benefits to its residents. An initial amount of $ 15 million will be used to fund the Detroit Tax Relief Fund, which will pay down the tax debt of low-income Detroit homeowners.

The Cranbrook Donation, also designed to ensure the school’s financial viability and support diversity, equity, access and inclusion projects at the Cranbrook Art Museum, was the result of an extensive ‘listening tour That Jennifer Gilbert, chair of the Cranbrook Art Academy and Museum of Art Board of Trustees began about four years ago when she took up her current role, said Dominic DiMarco, Chair from the Cranbrook Educational Community, which oversees the academy, museum, PreK-12 college preparatory school, science institute, and historic house museums.

Jennifer Gilbert with students from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2019.

Sarah Blanchette

“She chose areas where she believed financial support would allow the academy to grow, to sustain itself, and truly, this gift could be a catalyst for change for the long-term sustainability of the program,” said DiMarco.

The donation is the largest the school has received since its founding in 1904. In a press release, Gilbert said that “the couple’s ultimate goal is to foster lasting financial stability while creating a more diverse community and more equitable. We know this is not a quick fix, but a step in the right direction.

The donation directly addresses concerns raised by students about diversity, equity and inclusion at school, which led Cranbrook Academy to hire diversity consultants who have since worked with students, artists. in residence who are part of the school’s faculty and with the administration, says DiMarco. The Gilbert donation includes ongoing funding for the consultants.

“We thought we needed to attract more diverse audiences to Cranbrook – this grant sets money aside for that,” he says.

The key to achieving a more equitable environment will be the new Gilbert Fellows program, which will allow up to 20 students per year to attend the academy without paying tuition fees, which works out to around $ 40,000 per year.

The scholarships, which will be funded “in perpetuity” by a permanent endowment, will be for students of racial and ethnic groups that are under-represented at the school, Cranbrook said.

“It’s one way to attract talented students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to come to Cranbrook,” says DiMarco.

The Gilbert’s, who are art collectors and big supporters of the arts in the Detroit area, are also looking to expand the academics students are exposed to by funding five visiting professors, representing artists of color, for five years.

“It will be a great help to our students, it will give them the impression of having the big picture, that Cranbrook is a diverse community,” he said.

The donation also includes funding to expand the academy’s existing scholarship fund, which provides tuition assistance and general support.

Cranbrook Academy focuses solely on upper-level fine arts, architecture, crafts, and design for up to 150 students per year. It has several famous graduates, including architects and designers Charles and Ray Eames, Florence Knoll and Harry Bertoia, and artists Nick Cave, Sonya Clark, McArthur Binion, Chris Schanck and Duane Hanson.

Gilbert took up her role as board chair at a difficult time for the school, which was struggling with declining enrollment – an issue that all higher arts programs have faced for some time, says DiMarco .

As with many higher education institutions, the pandemic has dealt another blow. Cranbrook gave students the option to postpone a year, although the school was able to offer in-person instruction, and enrollment numbers fell to around 130.

The donation will strengthen the school’s finances by providing funds to develop, test and launch entrepreneurial initiatives that can involve the surrounding community, such as summer programs or adult programs, and will generate income unrelated to fees. of tuition to support the school, DiMarco said.

“What they did was put some money into this giveaway so that we could go back to them and tell them, we have ideas, and they agreed to fund [them], “he said.” This will also contribute to the long-term sustainability of the academy. “

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