Why The Henry Ford is canceling one program, pausing another amid COVID

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

As it continues to evaluate its programming nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, The Henry Ford is canceling one longtime popular event altogether and pausing another.

In a newsletter to patrons this week, The Henry Ford announced that it plans to "retire" its Maker Faire Detroit, calling it "not sustainable" given the amount of effort it requires from partners, staff and volunteers. Started 12 years ago but on pause for the last two years because of the pandemic, the event brings together hundreds of inventors, makers and hackers from all over to demonstrate their creations.

"We are so proud of creating the first-ever Maker Faire Detroit on our campus more than 12 years ago, and the maker philosophy and mindset continues to be threaded throughout our many programs," said The Henry Ford.

"Heavy Meta" creative director Marie Poliak, 30, of Toronto, remotely operates the fire-breathing dragon on Canada's largest art car, at the Henry Ford Maker Faire Detroit in Dearborn, July 28, 2018.  The dragon is built over a GMC Minibus and will be completely disassembled and placed in a trailer as Heavy Meta travels to their next show location.

Its annual Civil War Remembrance, meanwhile, which also has been on a two-year pause, will remain on hold for 2022. Held for 30 years, it features historic presenters, musicians and re-enactments.

"We are taking this invaluable time to evaluate this experience and consider other programmatic opportunities to present its key themes of conflict, American freedom and democracy," said The Henry Ford.

COVID-19 has posed challenges for museums and cultural institutions across Metro Detroit, forcing them to figure out how to reopen their doors safely after the initial lockdown to instituting COVID protocols. Many, including The Henry Ford, which includes Greenfield Village, downsized staff when the pandemic first hit in 2020 and are still finding their way forward.

Maker Faire Detroit at The Henry Ford brought together hundreds of inventors and creators. By 2013, the number of makers had more than doubled from when it first started in 2010 to 400 participants.

The Henry Ford has decided to "retire" its Maker Faire Detroit, an annual showcase of inventions and innovation.

Held in other cities, Maker Faire was started by Make magazine, a how-to publication for people who love to tinker with stuff.