Connecting People to Architecture: MAF Architecture Awareness Grants Expand


The quality of our physical environment is demanding our attention. Increasingly, communities understand the connection it has to quality of life in their community. It’s no surprise that the number of programs addressing this has increased dramatically in the last few years. To meet this demand, the MAF Architecture Awareness Committee has increased funding and grants given through the MAF Architecture Awareness Grant program.

Chaired by Damian Farrell, FAIA, the committee is responsible for administering the grant program, evaluating grant applications, and following up with grantees regarding their initiative results. “When the program first began, the grants were solely for AIA (American Institute of Architects) Michigan chapters for funding local programs,” he stated. “We awarded a grant to AIA Flint, who was working with the Flint Architectural Art Project to organize the Flint Flat Lot Design Competition.

He continues, “The competition attracted significant local and international interest, and MAF realized the impact we could have by offering support to a wider net of organizations. It was the beginning of the evolution of the grant program.”

The grant program budget was increased and criteria established to align with MAF’s mission of advancing awareness of how architecture enriches life. Since 2000, 60 grants have been awarded, totaling $88,970.00 to date.

Criteria applicants and their programs must meet to qualify for an MAF Architecture Awareness Grant include: demonstrating how it promotes an understanding of how architecture enriches lives; how it will engage audiences; how it will be leveraged with other resources to support their programming; and financial need. Applicants also must be able to articulate the program’s likely outcome or results when complete. “Our committee is pleased that each of our grantees has more than delivered in showing how their programs creatively connect people and architecture. As well, many of their programs have been game changers in creating community impact, and MAF is proud to have supported them.”

One program supported by MAF Architecture Awareness Grants with substantial community impact are the Project Pipeline Architecture Camps, developed by the National Association of Minority Architects (NOMA) to help increase the number of minority students pursuing careers in architecture, and brought to Michigan by architect Bryan Cook. The program has been so successful that it has been awarded MAF Architectural Awareness Grants for multiple years running, has expanded across the state, and has had more than 100 students enrolled in its summer day camp programs.

Said Damian, “Over the years, the number of applicants and the variety and creativity of their programs has been a pleasant surprise. It’s been fulfilling to see the impact their programs are making on communities and the lives of their participants, while at the same time, increasing awareness of the value of architecture for their audiences.”

For Washtenaw County’s Community Action Network (CAN) Art & Design program, MAF Architecture Awareness Grants helped fund after-school arts programs. Students activities have included designing and building wind energy and solar light structures, while learning about social and climate issues affecting their schools and communities, and building shelters for homeless cats. The program also is a multi-year MAF Architecture Awareness Grant recipient.

“Many of the children who participate in programs like these don’t have arts education in their schools, or exposure to other creative activities that help them understand the full range of opportunities available to them,” said Damian. “Both CAN’s Art & Design program and the Project Pipeline camps not only create awareness of architecture, but also teach problem solving and instill the idea that a wider world and education are open to everyone. Evening the playing field for kids? Now that’s impact, and programming MAF is proud to support.”

Other projects receiving MAF Architecture Awareness grants include an award-winning documentary on Charlevoix’s unique Mushroom Houses; a film on renowned architect Eero Saarinen; and free architecture walking tour maps.

MAF Architecture Awareness Grant applications are accepted on a rolling basis. For more information and to apply, click here.