For more than a century, the College for Creative Studies (CCS) has distinguished itself as one of the premier institutions of higher learning in the world. The current College traces its heritage back to 1906 when a group of local civic leaders, inspired by the English Arts and Crafts movement, formed the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts. The Society’s mission was to keep the ideals of beauty and craftsmanship alive in what was rapidly becoming an industrialized world. At their original location on Farmer Street, Society members began teaching informal classes in basic design, drawing and woodcarving. In 1911, they opened a gallery where students as well as prominent modern artists displayed and sold their work.
As Detroit’s creative community continued to take root, the Society recognized the need to expand. They moved to a larger location on Watson Street (1916), and 10 years later became one of the first arts and crafts organizations to offer a formal, four-year program in art (1926). Within a year, the Art School of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts grew to an enrollment of 280 students.
Much of the school’s success was attributed to its close integration of rigorous courses with progression of the art and design movements and world-class, contemporary exhibitions—a tradition that continues to prevail. In addition to hiring talented, local artists and designers, the school sought renowned painters, sculptors and craftspeople from around the world to teach courses. In 1933, the Society’s gallery garnered national media attention as one of the first art institutions to recognize the automobile as an art form. This was around the same time that programs in industrial design and commercial art were introduced to the school’s curriculum.
The school relocated for a third time in 1958 to its current location near the city’s cultural center. The move provided students with more convenient access to the Detroit Institute of Arts’ impressive collection. All classes and offices were initially housed in the Arts & Crafts building designed by Minoru Yamasaki.
In 1962, the school officially became a college when the Michigan Department of Education authorized the institution to offer of a Bachelor of Fine Arts in industrial design. Eight years later, the College was awarded the right to provide degrees in all of their major programs. The National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) granted original accreditation in 1972, and the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA) granted regional accreditation in 1977.
The next four decades brought about several improvements and significant changes to the campus. In 1975, construction of the architectural award-winning Kresge-Ford Building was completed, and the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts changed its name to the Center for Creative Studies—College of Art and Design. The school acquired an apartment building adjacent to campus (the Art Centre building) in 1988 that serves as the main dormitory on campus and the building that formerly housed Detroit’s African American Museum of History in 1997 that was later transformed into the Academic Resource Center (now the Manoogian Visual Resource Center), which contains the Center Galleries and library. A parking structure was added to the campus in 1999, and in the fall of 2001, the college inaugurated the Walter B. Ford II building for design and technology-driven disciplines. The donation to fund this project was the largest ever given to an art college at the time. That year, two historic homes on the northern side of campus were also renovated to accommodate administration and admissions offices.
The year 2001 brought about a milestone critical to the future of the school. Results of a research study led to the Board of Trustees’ decision to change the school’s name to the College for Creative Studies (CCS) to more clearly communicate its identity as an accredited, degree-granting “college.”
The Josephine F. Ford Sculpture Garden was added in the fall of 2005 to provide a gathering place for the campus community, and in 2007, the College renovated another home on historic Ferry Street to house the Institutional Advancement and Human Resources offices.
In 2008, CCS embarked on its most significant project to date—a $145 million redevelopment of the 760,000 sq. ft. historic Argonaut Building (formerly General Motors’ first research and design studio). Located in Detroit’s New Center district (about a mile from the original Walter and Josephine Ford Campus), the building serves as the A. Alfred Taubman Center for Design Education.
The Taubman Center is home to the College’s five undergraduate design departments, graduate degree programs in color and materials design, integrated design, interaction design and transportation design and the Henry Ford Academy: School for Creative Studies, an art and design charter school for middle and high school students. This second campus site has enabled CCS to expand its curriculum to include new areas of the creative industries, improve facilities for all of its departments and connect with the local community through Design Core Detroit. It represents the College’s commitment toward accelerating metro Detroit’s transition to an innovation-based economy by renewing the infrastructure of an important urban neighborhood; attracting, developing and retaining talent in the creative industries; spurring research in sustainable product development; and creating jobs and new business opportunities. The original Ford campus continues to house arts and crafts disciplines as well as the majority of administrative offices.
The College’s legacy has contributed to its recognition as an international leader in art and design education. In 2007, Bloomberg Business Week listed CCS among the top design schools in the world. In 2014 LinkedIn ranked CCS the #3 design school in the country based on alumni success. The College now enrolls more than 1,400 students seeking undergraduate degrees across 11 majors, 4 graduate degrees and one teacher certification program. CCS also offers non-credit courses in the visual arts through its Precollege and Continuing Studies programs and annually provides over 4,000 high-risk Detroit youth with art and design education through the Community Arts Partnerships programs.
A century of tradition shaped by some of the most brilliant minds in the world has culminated in a truly unsurpassed institution of higher learning—a community where the creative spirit is free to soar.