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Historic $30 Million Gifted to Cranbrook Academy of Art by Jennifer and Dan Gilbert

April 6th, 2021

Historic $30 Million Gifted to Cranbrook Academy of Art by Jennifer and Dan Gilbert

  • Transformational gift to create new pathways for inclusion, diversity, equity and access to a leading graduate art school in the United States
  • Establishes new fellowships and financial support for students and visiting artists of color
  • Funding to build new revenue channels that reduce reliance on tuition and build long-term fiscal sustainability


Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, April 6, 2021 Cranbrook Academy of Art announced today a transformational gift of $30 million 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 one of the nation’s top-ranked schools 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.”

Foremost, 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 substantive 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 and reduce reliance on tuition for funding. 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.”

“These resources will propel significant change within a traditional, tuition-based funding model in higher education which has forced the closure or downsizing of several art programs across the country,” added DiMarco.

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.”

About Cranbrook Academy of Art

Cranbrook Academy of Art (CAA) is part of the larger Cranbrook Educational Community, a 319-acre campus originally founded by George Booth and his wife Ellen Scripps Booth, that also includes a contemporary art museum, institute of science, historic house museums, and a PreK-12 college-preparatory school. The Booths hired the Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen to help with the master plan and design of the campus, and he went on to become the co-founder and first president of CAA with a vision of a creative utopia. Saarinen believed the best way for artists to learn was from each other. This radical concept has sustained the Academy for the last 88 years, and produced some of the most successful artists, architects and designers in the world.

Each year, up to 75 students are invited to study and live on the CAA campus, which features private studios, state-of-the-art workshops, and 300 acres of forests, lakes, and streams, all a short drive from Detroit. The focus at Cranbrook is on studio practice in one of 11 disciplines: Architecture, 2D, 3D, and 4D Design, Ceramics, Fiber, Metalsmithing, Painting, Photography, Print Media, and Sculpture. Each department has approximately 10-15 students total, making for a total campus population of no more than 150 students. The program is anchored by celebrated Artists- and Designers-in-Residence, one or more for each discipline, all of whom live and practice on campus alongside their students.

For more information, please visit www.cranbrookart.edu.

Follow the conversation on social: @cranbrookart

About Jennifer and Dan Gilbert

Jennifer Gilbert is the Founder and Creative Director of Detroit-based POPHOUSE, a commercial design firm specializing in utilizing data and industry research to provide strategic, unconventional and human-centric design for clients across a broad spectrum of industries. In 2015 she founded Amber Engine, a home furnishings services and solutions technology company. Prior to Amber Engine, Jennifer founded Doodle Home, a digital platform for residential interior designers. Doodle Home was sold to Dering Hall in 2015, and Jennifer now serves on Dering Hall’s Board of Directors. Jennifer is also a Director and Board Member of Rocket Companies (NYSE: RKT), which went public on August 6, 2020.

Jennifer is active with a number of nonprofits focused on the arts, Jewish causes, building opportunity and equity in Detroit, and finding a cure for NF. She is President of NF Forward and serves as Chair of the Board of Governors of the Cranbrook Academy of Art and Art Museum. Jennifer also founded the Detroit Art Collection to beautify and inspire public spaces and structures in downtown Detroit with sculptural and mixed media works from local, national and international artists, galleries and dealers.

Jennifer earned her Bachelor of Arts in Interior Design from Michigan State University. The Gilberts reside in the Detroit area with their five children.

Dan Gilbert is Founder and Chairman of Rocket Companies (NYSE: RKT), which went public on August 6, 2020. He is also Founder and Chairman of Quicken Loans, the nation’s largest mortgage lender, Founder and Chairman of the Rock Family of Companies, a portfolio of technology businesses and real estate investments, and Chairman of the Cleveland Cavaliers, which recently appointed Cleveland-native artist Daniel Arsham as Creative Director in 2020. The Rock Family of Companies and its more than 100 affiliated companies across the country employ more than 30,000 team members, including more than 17,000 in Detroit’s urban core.


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