Blog: Christopher Schneider

Christopher Schneider is a photographic artist who teaches at Lawrence Tech and OCC. He is also the Program Manager at the Cranbrook Summer Art Institute and a founder of the Hatch arts collective. A native Nebraskan, Chris moved to Detroit in 2001 and has never looked back.

Post No. 2

If they only had a football team

Most Michiganders know that the University of Michigan’s football team was ranked #5 in the nation a week ago --before losing to Appalachian State and falling out of the rankings altogether. 

Most Michiganders do not know that the Cranbrook Academy of Art is ranked as the fifth best art school in the nation (yes, they even rank art schools —“they” being the US News and World Report). However, the school has had some important losses in the past year.   

Three department heads retired or moved away, including Carl Toth, who was recently awarded "Educator of the Year" by the Society of Photographic Educators. The senior member of the faculty, Tony Hepburn, has already announced he will be retiring at the end of the school year. Considering there are only ten faculty members, a lot of new blood is coming.   

But that is not all. Cranbrook has four full-time administrators. Three of them left their positions this summer, including Gerhardt Knodel, director of the Academy, taking with him over three decades of service. 

I can see the gossip mongers perking up. So what is happening? Is everyone fleeing the state and its floundering economy? Is something scandalous going on behind the scenes? 

I am sorry (for the sake of this blog) to report that, no, nothing juicy, sexy or wicked is happening. It is just a long series of coincidences. But to make this more sensational, I will blame it on ghosts. And the lack of a football team. 

I attended the Academy of Art, graduating in 2003. Cranbrook was the one and only reason I moved to the area, and it has been one of the main reasons I have stayed. They allowed me to begin a summer program for teenagers called the Cranbrook Summer Art Institute, and they stuck with me as it struggled through its first two years. Now in its fourth year, things have changed around. Over 160 students from five countries (including Iceland!) and 18 states came to our campus to take a three-week class.  

If my program is any predictor, Cranbrook may have a couple of tough years ahead —although it certainly won’t fall as far and fast as the Wolverines. Carl Toth’s replacement, David Hilliard, taught at one of the few schools ranked higher than Cranbrook—Yale. Gerhardt Knodel is replaced by Reed Kroloff, a sparkplug of a leader from Tulane. Old guard out, new guard in and now we wait and see. 

Here’s my piece of advice: think football. 

For information about the Cranbrook Summer Art Institute, visit

Yes, I know it needs to be updated.