History

View of the Art Museum peristyle through Nichols Gates, 1952

View of the Art Museum peristyle through Nichols Gates, 1952
Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives

 

Cranbrook Academy of Art, known as the cradle of American modernism, continues to have a significant impact on the world of art, architecture, and design completely disproportionate to its size.

Outstanding artists, architects and designers – the Saarinens, Ray and Charles Eames, Florence Knoll, Jack Lenor Larsen, Donald Lipski, Duane Hanson, Lorraine Wild, Nick Cave and Hani Rashid, to name only a few – have been a part of Cranbrook’s community of artists. Lasting friendships formed at the Academy lead to future professional collaboration. Our alumni have an international influence through their individual artistic practices and teaching professions.
Cranbrook Academy of Art is part of the 319-acre Cranbrook Educational Community, described as “one of the most enchanted architectural settings in America.” The community was founded by George Gough Booth, a Detroit newspaper baron and philanthropist, who soon hired Eliel Saarinen the Finnish architect who occupies a major position in the history of modern American design and architecture. Both were inspired by the vision of the Arts and Crafts movement, which began in England in the mid-nineteenth century and soon spread to the United States. The Arts and Crafts movement appealed to George Booth aesthetically and morally. He hoped its influence would banish tasteless, mass-produced goods from American homes. He believed that craftsmanship would result in superior products and provide the foundation for an ethically responsible life. Cranbrook would come to support those ideals and satisfy the desire of its founders to achieve something of lasting value and significance.

In 1904, George Gough and Ellen Scripps Booth bought the property that would become Cranbrook, and spent their first years at Cranbrook landscaping the property and constructing their family home designed by Albert Kahn. With their estate established, they began the buildings for public use. The Greek Theatre was built in 1916, Christ Church Cranbrook was completed in 1928, plans for boys and girls schools were begun and foremost in their minds, and plans were made for an academy of art based on their visit to the American Academy in Rome. At the suggestion of his son Henry, George Booth approached Eliel Saarinen, a visiting professor in architectural design at the University of Michigan, with his idea for an academy of art. Ultimately Booth invited Saarinen to move to Cranbrook from Finland to oversee the architectural and landscape development of the campus. The Cranbrook School for Boys was completed in 1928, Kingswood School (for girls) in 1931, and the Cranbrook Art Museum and Library building in 1942.

Informal art education began at the Academy in the late 1920s, in studios built for the artists and crafts people working with Saarinen. The Academy of Art was officially sanctioned in 1932 with Saarinen installed as president. He continued to design new buildings for the campus with Academy student apprentices. The original Cranbrook Institute of Science building was completed in 1937 and the Academy art museum and library in 1942. The campus is a National Historic Landmark, considered the most complete example of Saarinen’s genius. It is an architectural and horticultural treasure where Academy students live and work today, inspired to write their own history in an environment of beauty and innovation.

Recent additions to the Cranbrook Educational Community campus uphold the international standard of excellence set by Booth and Saarinen. Spanish architect Rafael Moneo designed the New Studios Building addition to the Academy and Art Museum that opened in 2002. Other contemporary buildings at Cranbrook include Stephen Holl’s addition to Cranbrook Institute of Science, Todd Williams and Billie Tsien’s Natatorium on the Cranbrook School campus, Peter Rose’s addition to Brookside School, and Lake-Flato’s Girls Middle School.

Charles Eames (behind camera), Eero Saarinen to the left of Eliel Saarinen (center with hat) and architecture students on peristyle steps of the Cranbrook Art Museum, 1941

Charles Eames (behind camera), Eero Saarinen to the left of Eliel Saarinen (center with hat) and architecture students on peristyle steps of the Cranbrook Art Museum, 1941
Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives

Cranbrook School and Art Academy studios, 1938

Cranbrook School and Art Academy studios, 1938
Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives

View of the design department with students. Charles Eames (center) is crouched on floor and behind him is a prototype chair for Kleinhans Music Hall, 1940

View of the design department with students.
Charles Eames (center) is crouched on floor and behind him is a prototype chair for Kleinhans Music Hall, 1940
Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives

The Swedish weavers in the lower level of the weaving studio. From left, Elizabeth Edmark, Marie Bexell, Peggy Broberg, Gerda Nyberg, 1935

The Swedish weavers in the lower level of the weaving studio.
From left, Elizabeth Edmark, Marie Bexell, Peggy Broberg, Gerda Nyberg, 1935
Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives

 

Academy of Art faculty and students, 1941

Academy of Art faculty and students, 1941
Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives

  • Cranbrook Academy of Art Artists-in-Residence and Faculty, 1929-Present

    Presidents/Directors
    Eliel Saarinen 1932-1946
    Zoltan Sepeshy 1946-1966
    Glen Paulsen 1966-1970
    Wallace Mitchell 1970-1977
    Roy Slade 1977-1994
    Susanna Torre, Director 1994-1996
    Gerhardt Knodel, Director 1996-2007
    Reed Kroloff, Director 2007-2014
    Christopher Scoates, Director 2014-present

    Architecture Department
    Eliel Saarinen 1932-1950
    Eero Saarinen 1939-1941 (assistant)
    Robert Snyder 1951-1965
    Glen Paulsen 1966-1970
    Jerald Exline 1976-1978
    Daniel Libeskind 1978-1985
    Dan Hoffman 1986-1996
    Peter Lynch 1996-2005
    William Massie 2005-present

    Ceramics Department
    Ruth Erikson Allen 1931
    Waylande Gregory 1932-1933
    Marshall Fredericks 1934-1935, 1937-1942
    Maija Grotell 1938-1966
    Richard DeVore 1966-1978
    George Mason 1978-1979
    Jun Kaneko 1979-1986
    Graham Marks 1986-1992
    Tony Hepburn 1992-2008
    Anders Ruhwald 2008-present

    Design Department
    Pipsan Saarinen Swanson 1932-1935
    Rachel de Wolfe Raseman 1934 (interior design)
    William Comstock 1937-1938
    Charles Eames 1939-1941
    Walter Baermann 1941-1942
    Frank Greer 1942-1943
    Department closed part of 1943-1944
    Howard Dearstyne 1944-1946
    Norman Nagle 1946-1948
    Theodore Luderowski 1949-1956
    Kenneth Isaacs 1956-1957
    Charles McGee 1957-1960
    Howard Brown 1960-1967
    Katherine and Michael McCoy 1971-1995

    2D Design Department
    Andrew Blauvelt 1995-1996
    Laurie and Scott Makela 1996-2000
    Elliot Earls 2001-present

    3D Design Department
    Peter Stathis 1995-2000
    Scott Klinker 2001-present

    Fiber Department
    Loja Saarinen 1932-1935, 1937-1942
    Maja Anderson Wirde 1929-1933
    Lilliam Holm 1934-1937
    Marianne Strengell 1941-1961
    Robert Sailors 1944-1947
    Glen Kaufman 1962-1966
    Robert Kidd 1967-1969
    Gerhardt Knodel 1970-1996
    Margo Mensing 1996-1997
    Jane Lackey 1997-2007
    Mark Newport 2007-present

    Metalsmithing Department
    John C. Burnett 1929-1930 (ironworker)
    Arthur Nevill Kirk 1929-1933 (silversmith)
    Charles Price 1936
    Harry Bertoia 1938-1943
    Hermann Garfield [Hermann Gurfinkel]1945-1947
    Richard Thomas 1948-1984
    Gary Griffin 1984-2006
    Iris Eichenberg 2006-present

    Painting Department
    Frank L. Allen 1930-1932
    Zoltan Sepeshy 1931-1966 (Emeritus 1967-1974)
    John Cunningham 1932
    Wallace Mitchell 1936-1942,1945-1950
    Clifford B. West 1943
    Donald Willett 1964-69
    George Ortman 1970-1992
    Beverly Fishman 1992-present

    Photography Department
    Richard C. Jackson 1971
    Carl Toth 1972-2007
    David Hilliard (interim) 2007-2008
    Liz Cohen 2008-present

    Printmaking/Print Media Department
    Laurence Barker 1960-1970
    Bob Evermon 1969-1973
    Erwin Hollander 1973-1975
    Connor Everts 1976-1981
    Steve Murakishi 1981-2002
    Randy Bolton 2002-2016
    Susan Goethel Campbell 2016-present

    Sculpture Department
    Geza Maroti 1927-1929
    David Evans 1929-1930
    Carl Milles 1931-1953
    Marshall Fredericks 1934-1942
    Janet de Coux 1942-1944
    Jon Jonson 1944-1947
    William McVey 1947-1953
    John Risley 1951-1952
    Glenn Chamberlain 1954-1956
    Morris Brose 1956-1957
    Berthold Schiwetz 1957-1963
    Julius Schmidt 1964-1968
    Jeremy Samson 1970-1972
    Kenneth Fadeley 1973-1976
    Michael Hall 1970-1990
    Dana Duff 1990-1991
    Heather McGill 1991-present

    Original Departments that were Discontinued

    Bookbinding
    Jean Eschman 1929-1933

    Cabinetmaking
    Tor Berglund 1929-1932

    Printing
    Henry P. Roberts 1929-1930
    Edward Alonzo Miller 1930-1933