An artist works on a painting at the College for Creative Studies. The arts college and the Gilbert Family Foundation are offering a new scholarship program for Detroiters. (Courtesy photo from College for Creative Studies)

Detroit students interested in honing their artistic skills after high school now have the opportunity to make that process a little easier. 

The Gilbert Family Foundation and College for Creative Studies (CCS) are teaming to launch a new scholarship program–the Gilbert Family Foundation Endowed Scholarship Fund. The $1 million scholarship fund is specifically for Detroit students from historically marginalized communities, according to the foundation. Eligible candidates will be considered if they are facing economic, educational or environmental hardships. 

The scholarship will become available starting in the 2024–25 school year and provide an annual award of $50,000 over four years to one CCS student. The college offers a variety of bachelor and master degrees in creative fields such as animation, art education, fashion design and film. 

“Detroit has a long history of great art and design and it just makes sense to provide more opportunity for students from Detroit to be at CCS and go into an art and design career,” said CCS President Don Tuski. “You can do transportation design, but you can also do glassblowing here. You can work on blockbuster movies and animation design, but you can also do fine art painting and sculpture. It’s really wonderful to have a variety of classes for students to participate in.” 

Jasmin DeForrest, director of arts and culture for the Gilbert Family Foundation, told BridgeDetroit the scholarship program has been in the works for about two years. The organization was already partnering with CCS for its Pre-College Summer Experience program for high schoolers, but wanted to do more to increase arts and culture access for Detroiters. DeForrest said as arts and culture director, she felt it was important to help establish a pipeline to higher education for youth in Detroit, as well as a place for students to gain exposure to creative careers. 

“And so, we wanted to take it a step further beyond career exposure within the arts and culture sector and really be able to develop a program that will decrease and eliminate those financial barriers for students to be able to earn a degree within the art and design field,” she said. “And it’s exciting that they will have access to this world-class institution in their hometown.” 

How to qualify 

DeForrest said scholarship applicants must be students at Detroit high schools with a financial need. The Gilbert foundation is working with the financial aid department and diversity, equity and inclusion team at Detroit Public Schools Community District to find students who meet the criteria. 

“Things will go through CCS’ education channels like the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid),” DeForrest said. “Many students, especially those who are in financial need, will submit a FAFSA application. Once that goes through, there will be someone on the CCS side, as well as the DEI team, that will be reaching out to students who qualify and letting them know that this is a scholarship opportunity.” 

Students will also be asked to submit a portfolio of their art samples as well as a brief statement on their career goals and why they need the scholarship. The application will be available to fill out on the CCS website and through the college’s admissions office, Tuski said. 

“What this does is fulfill a gap that we’re seeing,” he said. “That last $10,000 to $15,000 is really what makes it difficult for a wide range of students to attend CCS. This will actually help solve that a great deal.” 

As of the 2023-24 school year, undergraduate tuition at CCS is $49,950 for the fall and winter semesters combined. Ninety-eight percent of students receive financial assistance of some kind, with the average amount for scholarship and grant packages projected to total at $25,874. 

DeForrest said the Gilbert foundation will invest $1 million in perpetuity so students will benefit from the scholarship every year indefinitely. She has heard stories from artists over the years who attended college, but had to drop out after the second or third year because they could no longer afford to pay tuition. 

“Hearing those stories over the years were the inspiration and the fuel behind the fund,” DeForrest said. “As a native Detroiter, to be able to create a program like this that addresses systemic barriers, especially students in Detroit are facing, is very exciting.” 

Added Tuski: “I can’t tell you how much of an impact that’s going to make on students to be able to be at CCS and stay at CCS and graduate and go off to great careers in art and design.” 

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