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Arts Initiative

Arts & Resistance theme semester to engage campus, community

Jessica Jenks

The University of Michigan is kicking off the 2023-24 academic year with the Arts & Resistance theme semester in a demonstration of the central role the arts play in shaping the world.

This campuswide endeavor provides numerous opportunities to engage with the arts and learn about how they help define cultural movements and impact society.

The theme semester is co-organized by a cross-campus coalition that includes the Arts Initiative, U-M Museum of Art and LSA, with participation from a wide variety of campus units and nine schools and colleges. Nearly 100 public events will take place this fall and include more than 20 visiting artists representing various disciplines, ideas and forms.

Programming consists of exhibitions, keynote lectures, concerts, performances, workshops and more. The Arts Initiative has awarded more than 60 theme semester projects and programs with grants totaling more than $500,000.

“One of UMMA’s core values is the belief that art strengthens human connection and creates a more just world. And during this year’s theme semester, UMMA is celebrating and honoring the power of the arts to change hearts and minds,” said Jim Leija, deputy director of public experience and learning at UMMA.

“UMMA’s two major exhibition projects this fall platform BIPOC artists and the powerful ways in which they are resisting the forces of white supremacy and imagining a more equitable and joyful future. The Arts & Resistance theme semester is unleashing the impressive creative and artistic capacities of the University of Michigan, and highlighting our role as a vibrant and dynamic international hub of artistic practice.”

In addition to public events and programs, the semester includes more than 100 theme-specific courses taught by U-M faculty. All across U-M’s three campuses students will learn about the forms, methods, histories, influence, design, implications and future of arts being used as resistance.

Participating units, schools and colleges include, but are not limited to, LSA, School of Dentistry, College of Engineering, School of Music, Theatre & Dance, Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and the School of Social Work, as well as activations through the Arts Initiative at the UM-Flint and UM-Dearborn campuses.

“This theme semester is a months-long, immersive experience that in and of itself is an act of resistance to the norm,” said Christopher Audain, managing director of the Arts Initiative. “There is an opportunity here for everyone to engage in ways they have not before, and to find their own way — or better yet a way with others — to artfully resist and create change that makes progress towards the world they want to live in.”

Theme semesters provide the opportunity for the U-M community to collectively explore ideas around a common theme, and provide intellectual and cultural immersion in a particular topic across U-M. They have been an integral part of the teaching and learning experience on campus for more than two decades, connecting the great intellectual and cultural strengths of U-M to the issues defining our world today.

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