EXPANDED AWARENESS: MAF Public Awareness Grants Creatively Connect People with Architecture

One of the most engaging ways to learn about architecture is through programs that educate us, enrich our experiences, and stimulate our imaginations. That’s the premise behind the Michigan Architectural Foundation‘s (MAF) Public Awareness Grant program. Grants are awarded for quality projects, programs, and activities that align with MAF’s mission to advance awareness of architecture, and connect people with architecture in creative ways.
“The program has expanded greatly since its beginning, when grantees were AIA (American Institute of Architects) Michigan chapters looking to support a single event,” said Damian Farrell, FAIA, MAF Public Awareness Grant committee chair. “Then, several AIA chapters used the grants to publish guides to local architecture, which created extended public reach.  A seminal moment came with the Flint Flat Lot Design Competition to re-imagine a parking lot into a lively public space, which drew interest from around the world. With both programs, we saw the opportunity to make grants available to a wider audience, and broaden their focus.”
Many recent MAF Public Awareness grants have been for education-focused programs – which also is helping build positive connections with MAF’s own educational programs. This includes the National Association of Minority Architects’Project Pipeline Architecture Camp  (a three-time grant recipient), which exposes students to architecture-related careers; and the Midland Center for the Arts, which purchased large modular blocks and gears for its ‘Hall of Ideas’ that encourage children to experiment, imagine, and build.
Another, an arts program from Washtenaw County-based Community Action Network (CAN; also a multi-year grant recipient), presents students with hands-on design challenges, such as building wind energy structures and houses for stray cats, and is designed to help kids think critically and realize their potential to create. CAN’s program was introduced in a disadvantaged elementary school that had no arts or science programming, and has been so successful that funds have been leveraged to help incorporate it year-round into the school’s curriculum, and help pay for a dedicated instructor. Said Farrell, “CAN’s program is an excellent example of the lasting impact MAF’s grants were intended to create.”
MAF’s Public Awareness grant program continues to grow, and MAF encourages interested parties to submit grant applications for consideration on a rolling basis. Said Farrell, “We are looking for opportunities that connect people with architecture, whether they are education-based or reach large audiences through curated architecture-related shows and community events centered on design, like ArtPrize.” Find out more about the grant criteria and the application process.
“The impact of the grants to date has been tremendous,” said Farrell. “When organizations are engaging people in fun, thought-provoking design exercises; stimulating conversations about architecture; or raising awareness about architecture as an exciting and challenging profession and its importance in our daily lives, they make it easy for MAF to fulfill its mission. We look forward to what our grantees come up with next.”
Want to help support the kind of programming that promotes awareness of architecture?  Find out more here.