The Wright Wins Prestigious National & State Awards

The American Alliance of Museums has honored the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and the Michigan Science Center with its 2019 Sustainability Excellence Award for the institutions’ collaborative efforts to engage in environmentally-friendly operational practices.

The institutions – which are neighbors in Detroit’s cultural center - collaborated on efforts to collect and assess data about their resource and utility usage to design strategies to help them reduce their carbon footprints. They also joined forces to make their events and festivals greener by encouraging recycling among visitors, reducing their waste by five percent.  The institutions also launched a “battle of the buildings” to leverage friendly competition between their staffs to reduce energy use and waste. Both institutions also launched green stormwater infrastructure projects to help them increase their growing areas, retain stormwater and lower drainage fees. The Wright Museum partnered with the Detroit Independent Freedom School to create a garden as part of its stormwater infrastructure efforts. 

“Above all, museums are educational institutions,” said Leslie Tom, chief sustainability officer for The Wright. “We then must ask ourselves: How can we use everything—our building systems, public programs, and our external grounds—to provide valuable visitor learning experiences and promote the long-term sustainability of our communities?”

Wright Museum CEO Neil A. Barclay lauded Tom for her efforts to push the museum’s staff and visitors to engage in sustainable practices.

“I’m very proud of the work that Leslie Tom and the entire Wright Museum staff have done to reduce our carbon footprint and solidify our standing as good stewards of the environment,” said Barclay. “This prestigious award demonstrates that our collaboration with the Michigan Science Center stands as a beacon of sustainability leadership for not only Detroit but the entire nation.”

The Michigan Humanities Council also recently named Charles Ferrell, the Wright’s vice president of public programs and community engagement as its Humanities Champion of the Year. According to the Council, the award is given to the person “whose contributions result in outstanding public humanities impact in their community and in their state.”

“On behalf of the global communities I serve, I am thrilled to receive this inaugural state-wide award,” said Ferrell, who has been in leadership at the museum for seven years. “There are strong synergies between the missions of the Michigan Humanities, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and my mission and passion, which is to creatively leverage unadulterated truth-telling to advance the struggle for human rights.”

Barclay said Ferrell has offered invaluable cultural leadership for the museum and the community it serves and richly deserves the award.

“Charles deserves tremendous credit for the top-notch programming the Wright presents every year,” Barclay said. “The museum is fortunate to have him on our team.”


Edward Foxworth III, Director of External Affairs, 313-494-5863,