In December 2015, Valade committed $7.5 million to Wayne State's Jazz Studies program, including $5 million for a project to transform the Hilberry Theatre into a world-class performance venue. Her latest gift will fund the renovation of the Studio Theatre, located in the basement of the Hilberry, which will be renamed the Jazz Underground and serve as a secondary performance space featuring jam sessions, workshops, community engagement programs, and a venue for jazz on film. The space also will continue to host theater and dance performances as well as other programs within the College of Fine, Performing, and Communication Arts.
The renovations of the Hilberry and Studio theaters mark the final phase of the Hilberry Gateway Performance Complex, a nearly $65 million initiative aimed at strengthening Wayne State's cultural presence in Midtown.
"Leading institutions of higher education like Wayne State must reaffirm their commitment to the arts and humanities," said Wayne State president M. Roy Wilson. "The Gretchen Valade Jazz Center and the Hilberry Gateway Performance Complex will send a strong signal of Wayne State's support for excellence in the arts. I am so very grateful to Gretchen for her continuing generosity."
"I'm passionate about jazz artists and spotlighting Detroit's rich jazz heritage," said Valade, a Carhartt heiress, founder of Mack Avenue Records, and owner of the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. "So, I'm pleased to move Wayne State closer to creating a new jazz performance space in the city. I hope others in the community who are passionate about the arts will also support the Hilberry Gateway project, so we can share this gift with future generations."