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Kresge Foundation commemorates centennial with spectacular celebration

Centennial, Detroit

President Barack Obama is honored guest and keynote speaker; Mayor Mike Duggan and a roster of Detroit artistic talent also part of the festivities

The Kresge Foundation commemorated its founding on June 11, 1924, with a centennial celebration at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) tonight. The event featured President Barack Obama, Mayor Mike Duggan, and performances from noteworthy local Detroit artists.

With the theme of “Kresge at 100: Celebrating The Kresge Foundation’s Century of Impact and Future of Opportunity,” the centennial event showcased the foundation’s long history of its most significant philanthropic achievements, especially in Kresge’s focus cities of Detroit, New Orleans, Memphis and Fresno.

Barack Obama, 44th president of the United States, served as the celebration’s main honored guest, joining Kresge President and CEO Rip Rapson for a fireside chat before an audience of 500 grantees, partners, trustees and staff.

“Kresge has had so many seminal chapters in our storied, 100-year long history, but hosting President Barack Obama at our centennial celebration clearly ranks among our institution’s deepest honors,” said Rapson. “President Obama has long made the case for cities as engines of economic opportunity, innovation and culture; and he was the first president to create a White House Office of Urban Affairs. President Obama cares deeply about American cities and their role in our civic fabric, our democracy and our economy. President Obama was the ideal honored guest at an event that celebrated Kresge’s history but also the power and promise of our country’s cities.”

President Barack Obama participated in a fireside chat with Kresge CEO & President Rip Rapson as part of the foundation’s centennial celebration. Photo by Alejandro Herrera

“When Detroit was in a moment of deep financial crisis more than a decade ago, I witnessed President Barack Obama and Rip Rapson roll up their sleeves and be creative about what they could do to make a difference during a moment of great challenge. To this day, I take great pride in President Obama’s leadership during that difficult time and his innovative approach to helping the city and people of Detroit,” said Cecilia Muñoz, Chair of Kresge’s Board of Trustees. Muñoz also served for eight years in the Obama Administration, first as the director of intergovernmental affairs and then as the director of the Domestic Policy Council. “I’m incredibly proud of the work that the Kresge Foundation did then for the city of Detroit and continues to do alongside community leaders in cities across the United States. Here’s to a century of work that equipped the Kresge Foundation for this moment, and to the next century that will be shaped by what we hope to achieve.”

Mayor Mike Duggan also spoke at the celebration, noting Kresge’s many contributions to the city’s revitalization. Kresge has invested more than $1 billion in its hometown of Detroit.

“No city is more important to us than our hometown. We have stood proudly with Detroit through its struggles, and we thrill at its triumphs –the increasing health and vitality of neighborhoods, the stunning residential and commercial revitalization of Woodward Avenue and the urban core, the pathbreaking formation of a streetcar that will soon be absorbed into a broader regional transit system, the creation of the pioneering cradle-to-career educational campus at Marygrove and so many others,” added Rapson.

The program also showcased the debut of a short documentary – An American Philanthropy: Kresge’s 100 Years of Service – that chronicles the foundation’s past and its philanthropic milestones.

In keeping with Detroit’s reputation as a preeminent artistic and cultural center, the formal program and grand reception featured an eclectic array of performances by local artists including:

  • Satori Shakoor, emcee
  • Zac Bru, Detroit Bureau of Sound
  • Thornetta Davis, with James Anderson and Carlton Washington
  • The Detroit Youth Choir
  • The Gabriel Brass Band
  • Chi Amen-Ra and Marwan Amen-Ra
  • Marion Hayden, Michelle May and Mahindi Masai
  • Hadassah GreenSky and The Swift Voice singers
  • Biba Bell, with Celia Benvenutti, Justin Snyder and Christopher Woolfolk
  • jessica Care moore and King Thomas Moore
  • Marcus Elliot and Michael Malis

Hosting the event at the DIA honors both the museum’s enduring national legacy as a beacon for arts and creativity and the close relationship between the two institutions. Not only has Kresge provided capital and operating support for the museum over many decades, but its $100 million contribution to the ‘Grand Bargain’ during the 2013 municipal bankruptcy proceedings also prevented creditors from impairing public pensions and selling the Institute’s collection.

Kresge’s first grant to the DIA was in 1949 to fund manuscript research about the history of textiles. One of the most significant capital projects Kresge supported was to help the museum cover an open-air courtyard with a glass ceiling. The resulting Kresge Court provided 3,000 square feet of exhibit space and today serves as a relaxing and comfortable “cultural living room” for visitors.

Check out photos from the event, including Detroit Youth Choir

“We were delighted to celebrate this moment at one of Detroit’s most iconic institutions. The Detroit Institute of Arts is a source of abundant pride to this city, a symbol of steadfastness and survival and a world-class institution with which Kresge holds a proud and indissoluble association. The DIA was the setting for an evening that we hope gives additional meaning to the foundation’s story,” said Rapson.

Earlier in the day, the Kresge Foundation hosted Detroit & the American City Symposium, which discussed the future Kresge and its partners seeks to build in Detroit. The Symposium explored how the foundation and its partners invest in access to opportunity for all Detroiters to build systems of resilience and health – collectively painting a picture of joy and healing for Detroit’s future.

Featured speakers at the Symposium included:

  • The Hon. Garlin Gilchrist, Lieutenant Governor of Michigan
  • Dominique Morriseau, Obie-winning playwright and actor
  • Angela Glover Blackwell, PolicyLink
  • Danielle Atkinson, Mothering Justice
  • Angie Reyes, the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation.
  • Tepfirah Rushdan, the City of Detroit’s sustainability director,
  • Donele Wilkins, the Green Door Initiative
  • dream hampton, Peabody Award-winning filmmaker and producer
  • Hannah Beachler, Oscar-winning production designer

To learn more about Kresge’s centennial celebration throughout 2024, please visit