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Art happening

By Lisa Rudgers

In the past week, Ann Arbor has been host to “The Full Monty” (produced by the Department of Musical Theatre), two Beckett plays presented by the University Musical Society and a special weeklong screening of “Answer This” at the Michigan Theater, a film my colleague Sally Churchill calls “a love letter to Ann Arbor.”

A2 has quite a cultural vibe.

Nowhere was that more evident than on North Campus Friday night.

The setting: 1919 Green Road, in an industrial-like warehouse building turned art studio space for U-M’s School of Art & Design.  A&D faculty, students and alumni gathered to celebrate the grand opening of the studios, which dean Bryan Rogers (photo left) called a “creative crucible” that is especially unusual because the space is shared among faculty and graduate students.  The artists are thrilled with the new home for their individual work as well the opportunity for collaboration made possible with the co-location.

Once the location for U-M Printing Services, the facility has been completely renovated for its new art and design function with new HVAC, new plumbing, new electrical, and added windows and skylights.

It’s rare for faculty and graduate students to have their studios in the same facility.

“When I first came to U-M 12 years ago, I thought it was critical that faculty and graduate students have dedicated space at the University for developing their creative work, a space that facilitates formal and informal engagement among and between graduate students and faculty members,” said Rogers. “Researchers have labs.  Studios are the laboratories for artists and designers. We’re so pleased to have the support from the administration that confirms art and design’s integral role as a part of this great research university.”

Do you know what I loved most about the event?

It did not feel like a typical campus ceremony. It was stylish and – dare I say it – hip.  (I was glad I wore my black leather jacket, let’s put it that way.) Artists and those who love the visual arts milled about, checking out the new studios and enjoying the atmosphere. The grand opening program featured some “speechifying,” as the dean called it, a dramatic ribbon cutting ceremony utilizing ladders and power tools…and then a DJ kicked it up a notch with dance music.

The architects and interior designers who renovated the building retained the warehouse-like effect and urban feel as they built the studios – a perfect backdrop for art and the artistic process.

And a seriously cool place for a party.

NOTE: Speakers commemorating the event included Martha Pollock, Vice Provost for Academic and Budgetary Affairs, Professor of Information, and Professor of Computer Science and Engineering; Chris Mackey, lead architect for the project from SHW Group, School of Art & Design Dean Bryan Rogers, and School of Art & Design Associate Dean Brad Smith.

A&D’s faculty and graduate student studios cover 33,000 square feet of industrial space, providing individual studios for both full time faculty and graduate students with 35 studios on the first floor, and 31 on the second floor, ringing a 5,000 square foot two-story central open area.  The facility also includes a large common area for collaborative and/or large-scale projects; multiple tool-specific shared work spaces; exhibition areas suitable for showcasing finished or in-process work; and a dramatic pedestrian bridge connecting the two second-floor studio wings.

Lisa Rudgers is vice president for Global Communications and Strategic Initiatives at the University of Michigan. This story also appears on Lisa Rudgers blog at