The Arts and Crafts of Cranbrook

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Posted by: Kristen Dettoni Category: Travel Tags: , Comments: 0

The Arts and Crafts of Cranbrook

I recently attended a reunion for graduates of Cranbrook Academy of Arts who studied under Gerhardt Knodel in the fiber program. I graduated in the class of 1993 and attended the reunion with one of my classmates and good friend, Paula Stebbins Becker. Paula and I decided to use the reunion as an excuse to have a road trip and drove to Detroit together from New England. We enjoyed seeing a bit of the country from the road while swapping stories of our time at Cranbrook.

Cranbrook has a rich history.

Many know Cranbrook Schools for its impeccable K-12 education. However, not many people know they also have an Academy of Art for Masters Programs. According to Cranbrook’s website, the Academy was “known for decades as the ‘incubator’ of mid-century modernism.” Originally founded as an experimental artist colony, it was part of a trifecta of schools trying to change how students learn. Of this trifecta, which included the Bauhaus and Black Mountain College, only Cranbrook Academy of Art is still operating. At Cranbrook, students tailor their studies to suit their personal needs and foster their own personal growth. The goal is for students to be free to explore. Students work alongside an artist in residence who guides, supports, and challenges them. Still, they do that on the same level with students.

The campus itself tells a story.

One of my favorite aspects of Cranbrook is its architecture and the story behind the campus’s design. The Academy of Art is part of a larger Cranbrook Educational Community. This community includes a contemporary art museum, science museum, and PreK–12 school. Founded by George and Ellen Booth in 1904, they modeled the Academy after the American Academy of Art in Rome.

Inspired by the aspirations of the arts and crafts movement, the Booths purchased 319 acres. Next, they hired the most influential architects and artists of the time to design the grounds and buildings. The Booths hired Eliel Saarinen as chief architect. Other notable designers who worked on the campus were Loja Saarinen, a textile designer, Carl Milles, and Maija Grotell. These designers thoughtfully designed every aspect of the buildings and grounds. Furthermore, everything was built with the highest quality of craftsmanship. The result is a beautiful and inspiring campus.

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