Approaching the Henry Ford,” Saaby

December 10, 2019; Crain’s Detroit Business

As we have discussed before, the Ford Foundation has long acknowledged its special relationship to Michigan, as well as its longtime interest both in museums and in diversity in the arts. So, it’s no surprise to us that Ford has made a $10 million grant to The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn.

The grant from the foundation’s equity initiative is meant to ensure that the museum’s cultural attractions, programs, and job training opportunities are fully accessible.

“It’s all about equity and inclusion and making sure we have friendly environments for all needs,” says Patricia Mooradian, president and CEO of The Henry Ford. “We want everybody to have accessibility to what this institution has to offer. We don’t want any barriers to somebody coming here, whether it’s a student coming from different circumstance [or] an adult needing special care.”

Ford Foundation CEO Darren Walker says that the grant supports an intersection of inclusion and accessibility concerns, at the same time lifting up the region as a center of innovation. About the museum itself which won recognition last year for its excellence in management, he calls it “among the most important centers of excellence in the nation.

The museum functions on a budget of $74 million/year but the money will be spent on a number of new initiatives including (as reported in Crain’s Detroit Business):

  • “Field trips for all fourth- and fifth-grade Detroit Public Schools Community District students for the next five years, along with free access for teachers and training on The Henry Ford’s Innovate digital curriculum”
  • “Expansion of The Henry Ford’s Youth Mentorship Program to serve more at-risk Detroit high school students”
  • “Expansion of a paid college internship program to attract a diverse population of students from a range of academic areas at local and out-of-state universities to the cultural sector”
  • “Tactile tours for the visually impaired and sensory-friendly tours for people on the autism spectrum”
  • “New companion care or family restrooms at the museum and village and other structural amenities to ensure older adults and those with special needs feel welcome”
  • “Regular town hall meetings at The Henry Ford that include lectures and discussions on key topics, led by historians, thought leaders, and civic leaders”

“I am thrilled to partner with The Henry Ford with an investment in the futures of young Detroiters with this Equity Initiative,” said Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation. “I believe strongly in the revitalization of the city of Detroit, and it is the youth, with their creativity, innovation, and dedication, who will continue the upward trajectory and leave their own legacy. But we must ensure every child has an equitable opportunity to do just that.”—Ruth McCambridge