As more and more institutions continue to create more initiatives to promote diversity and inclusion, one Michigan art school has just received a “transformational” gift to achieve those goals. The Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills has been gifted $30 million by art patrons Jennifer and Dan Gilbert. It is believed to be the single largest sum ever received by the graduate school in the country.
As part of the donation, Cranbook will be able to establish a permanent endowment to fund 20 full–tuition fellowships for students from underrepresented groups, administered through the school’s newly formed Gilbert Fellows program. The school’s existing scholarship fund, which offers aid to any eligible student, will also be expanded.
“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 serves as chair of the Board of Governors of Cranbrook Academy of Art and Art Museum.
The gift will also finance Cranbrook to retain Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access (IDEA) consultants, who will be charged with strategizing the school’s long-term inclusivity goal. The artists-in-residence program will also get a makeover too: over the next years, the school aims to host more visiting faculty artists, with a focus on artists of color.
The historic gift comes at a fraught time for arts education. As the coronavirus surged last year, cash-strapped colleges made drastic—and in some cases, permanent—cuts to their budget. Admissions were delayed for art history Ph.D. programs, humanities programs were consolidated, hiring freezes were put in place, and schools made layoffs and furloughs.
“Because of the Academy’s peer-to-peer learning approach, we feel that the inclusion of more diverse voices will influence the critical conversations and subsequent work produced in the Academy’s studios,” Dominic DiMarco, president of Cranbrook Educational Community, told ARTnews. “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.