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U-M Student Life Sustainability Announces Artist-in-Residence Dawn Weleski, launching “transgressive learning” café

The University of Michigan Student Life Sustainability Office will host Upstate New York-based multi-disciplinary artist Dawn Weleski as part of the “Noon at Night,” a collaborative project offering radical hospitality through participatory performances, student campus tours, and a community café. This initiative, supported by U-M Student Life Sustainability Cultural Organizers and various on- and off-campus partners, will culminate in a two-day event taking place on April 12-13, 2024.

The “Noon at Night” café will serve as a classroom connected to transgressive learners worldwide, opening each weekend when the clock strikes noon in partner locations. Through participatory performances referencing student-led protests and struggles, attendees can embark on hour-long campus tours retracing significant sites of student organizing and resistance. These tours will culminate at Palmer Commons, where the Noon at Night Café will be nestled, serving a curated menu of archived recipes from UM’s history, corresponding to the movement time periods shared on the tours. Each evening will feature a teach-in showcasing current student-led movement work.

Dawn Weleski is an internationally renowned artist based in New York. Weleski activates and broadcasts the stories of individuals and groups in experimental public performances, where conversation is her process and people her medium. Weleski’s public artwork has earned her international attention, most notably for Conflict Kitchen with Jon Rubin (2010–2017), a Pittsburgh restaurant that only served cuisines from countries with which the United States is in conflict and her multi-city operatic productions on public transit, Bus Stop Opera (2008–2010). 

Weleski’s most recent work, “Refuse Refuse: Radio,” is a speculative fiction radio theater series that dramatizes current and impending climate catastrophe throughout rural New York State. Broadcast from a mutual aid ambulance, Refuse Refuse will record and transmit survival skill workshops and a participatory climate collapse drama and is supported by a 2024 Anonymous Was a Woman Environmental Art Grant, a 2024 New York State Council on the Arts Grant, and the Harpo Foundation. Waleski regularly exhibits and produces public projects around the world, and most recently exhibited at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum 2022-23. Weleski holds a BFA in Visual Art with a concentration in Contextual Practice from Carnegie Mellon University and a MFA in Art Practice from Stanford University.

With funding from the U-M Arts Initiative Projects in Partnership fund and Student Life Sustainability, Weleski and the Noon at Night team will reactivate the defunct Palmer Commons and Kitchen for this two-day gathering (April 12–13, 2024). The café will serve as a living archive of student-led movement work locally and abroad, mocking up a potential future educational lab and community space.

“We are excited to bring Dawn in to work with our Cultural Organizing team, whose work focuses on the strategic use of art and culture to envision and build a better world,” said Alex Bryan, Director of Student Life Sustainability, “Noon at Night builds off of UM’s robust set of opportunities for students to use our campus-as-lab in and outside of the classroom, pushing us to imagine campus not only as a lab, but also as a studio and living archive of student-led advocacy towards a more sustainable and just institution.”

The inaugural core collaborative project team for Noon at Night includes U-M undergraduate students and doctoral candidates across fifteen disciplines, united by the question, “What has your stomach in a knot?” Through workshops and events, they have fostered spaces for wellness, critically assessed diversity and inclusion initiatives, and developed creative strategies for adaptation amidst climate emergencies.

Noon at Night highlights the vibrant history of student protest and faculty action on campus to remind us of both the university’s proud tradition of creating engaged community advocates and its core educational mission to develop the ‘leaders and citizens who will challenge the present and enrich the future’,” notes Mark Clague, Interim Executive Director of the Arts Initiative. “Not only are the arts a vehicle through which unheard voices can rise and shout, but I’m simply excited to eat some great food and meet some great people, all brought together by radical hospitality!”

Noon at Night will continue as an itinerant classroom and cafe through the end of Winter 2024 and is seeking partners to co-host public events in the 2024-25 academic year. Please contact with your interest. 

Visit or follow @noonatnightcafe for menu, tour registration, teach-in schedule, and more information.

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Arts Initiative Announces 2024 Creative Careers Residents

The University of Michigan Arts Initiative has announced three master’s degree-level residents for its Creative Careers Residency, a transitional program providing support for full-time, self-directed creative practice in architecture and urban planning, art and design, performing arts, intermedia arts or creative writing.

Upon graduation, many practitioners lose their networks of support necessary to develop significant work, posing a significant barrier to the transition from degree to sustained work. Maintaining a creative practice takes focus and time, and taking on a full-time job often leaves little of both.

The Creative Careers Residency seeks to reduce these barriers by providing the time, structure and funding support to transition from academia to post-graduate endeavors. Residents receive a $40,000 work stipend, health insurance, among other benefits.

The goals of the program are to:

The Arts Initiative is leading the way in this kind of institutional support for graduates in the arts. The Creative Careers Residency enables student-artists to create a significant project that will bridge the gap to the next art-making opportunity.

The 2023-24 Creative Careers Residents are:

Project Descriptions 

Mural project offers arts access to science students

Another unique partnership with the Arts Initiative brings the arts into the Neuroscience Graduate Program. A group of 14 neuroscience students participated in a printmaking workshop last summer with Ann Arbor artist Sajeev Visweswaran, and requested another opportunity for art-making this year.

A unique collaboration between students, faculty and local artists is bringing a vibrant mural related to the field of nuclear engineering to the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus this spring.

The interdisciplinary mural project was sparked by U-M faculty and graduate students in the sciences seeking creative, hands-on art-making outlets beyond their research.

Recognizing an increasing demand from the U-M scientific community to incorporate artistic elements into its work, the U-M Arts Initiative identified an unmet need for greater cross-disciplinary collaboration and access to arts resources within science, technology, engineering and math fields on campus.

Through this mural project and a cross-departmental partnership with the College of Engineering’s Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences, the Arts Initiative is co-creating unconventional arts opportunities for STEM students.

“Our core mission in the Arts Initiative is to activate, energize and inspire creativity across the whole campus ecosystem, not only where the arts might be typically found … but in areas of campus where the arts bring new modes of thinking and creative problem-solving skills to enhance research and learning,” said Mark Clague, interim executive director of the Arts Initiative.

“We are especially excited to connect the arts with health care, science, technology, engineering and other disciplines to help the whole campus be more creative, expressive and joyous.”

Todd Allen, the Glenn F. and Gladys H. Knoll Department Chair of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences, met with the Arts Initiative staff about incorporating art into his curriculum. That vision became a reality this semester as his “Intro to Nuclear Engineering” course tasked students to contribute to a mural facilitated by Michigan-based artists Josh Rainer and Devin Wright.

“This mural, showcasing the rich history of NERS, stands as a daily reminder for our students, aiding me in achieving both objectives,” said Allen, who also is the Chihiro Kikuchi Collegiate Professor of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences and professor of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences.

The Arts Initiative matched NERS with Rainer and Wright, who applied for the project as a duo, and they worked with students to develop imagery that visually represents their scientific work. The resulting mural will be installed in the tunnel connecting the department’s two main buildings on North Campus.

In May, local artist Katie Hammond will facilitate an image-making workshop for the neuroscience graduate students, connecting participants to both personal and professional “Heroes and Icons.” Their work will then be displayed at the annual departmental conference this spring.

“I think the arts are part of the very fabric of our way of knowing and communicating what we know about ourselves, our science and the world around us,” said Keith Duncan, associate professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery and of molecular and integrative physiology, and associate director of the Neuroscience Graduate Program.

“Our neuroscience students are musicians and graphic artists, crafters and writers, dancers and actors. To us, programs like the Arts Initiative help our students exercise these muscles and bring their whole selves to their academic lives.”

Other recent art-making partnerships with the Arts Initiative have included a printmaking workshop with the School of Dentistry, crochet and embroidery workshops with the “Gifts of Art” program at Michigan Medicine, a poetry workshop with the Marsal Family School of Education, and a colored-glass creation workshop in partnership with the School of Kinesiology’s diversity, equity and inclusion program.

The Arts Initiative also supports units through funding to develop their own arts programs. The new Arts Initiative Project Support grant program increases arts access and activity across campus and in the region. To learn more or to apply for future funding, check out Arts Initiative Funding Support.

Arts Initiative set to launch campuswide artist residency

A new campuswide artist residency, the U-M Artist-in-Residence Award, will launch next year, and the Arts Initiative is looking for nominations of artists who can make a big impact on campus and the community.

Beginning in fall 2024 and biennially thereafter, the Arts Initiative will award one distinguished external artist a yearlong academic residency with strong public components.

The selected artist will have access to U-M resources and will create new work or further develop in-progress work that advances the missions of the Arts Initiative and U-M’s Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint campuses.

The U-M Artist-in-Residence Award seeks to provide a uniquely valuable experience for an artist to create, grow and impact the world. This program will grow the artist’s interests and engage all three U-M campuses and the region in matters related to artmaking, the impact of art on culture, justice, community building or contemporary issues facing society.

The Arts Initiative hopes this program influences the university’s approach to supporting artists, students and faculty in the future, builds relationships across academic disciplines and creates campuswide demonstrations that illuminate the power of the arts.

“We’re excited to bring an artist to campus who can inspire our whole community — faculty, staff, and especially our students — to think of themselves as artists, who can make creativity a central tool for their research, learning and day-to-day life,” said Mark Clague, the Arts Initiative’s interim executive director. “Seeing possibility is what makes us human and our humanity is more essential than ever.”

The program will create pathways for students to learn from a professional artist and will bring to bear the university ’s vast resources in support of artists’ creativity.

Any U-M faculty or staff member can nominate an external candidate. Self-nominations will not be accepted. Artists of any discipline are eligible.

A review panel will select three potential awardees ranked by preference. The Arts Initiative will formally invite external nominees in order of preference.

Prior to inviting an artist, the Arts Initiative team will work with appropriate units related to the artist’s discipline and interests to confirm each unit’s level of partnership and participation.

One artist will be selected for the award announced in winter 2024.

The Arts Initiative seeks nominations for an artist who:

U-M announces Knight-Wallace Arts Journalism Fellowship

The University of Michigan Arts Initiative and the Wallace House Center for Journalists have created a Knight-Wallace Arts Journalism Fellowship for the 2024-25 academic year.

This specialized fellowship is designed to underscore the importance of arts reporting and criticism in American journalism.

The Knight-Wallace Arts Journalism Fellowship will provide professional development opportunities and engagement with leading scholars, creators and innovators in the arts.

The inaugural fellow will be a member of the Knight-Wallace Fellowship, now celebrating its 50th year, and a member of U-M’s campuswide Arts Initiative, which seeks to illuminate and expand human connections, inspire collaborative creativity and build a more just and equitable world through the arts.

“The mission of the Arts Initiative includes energizing and nurturing the arts on campus and in our state,” said Interim Executive Director Mark Clague. “This not only means making art happen, but it means inspiring a robust critical dialogue about creative work and its meanings — its joy, humanity, and challenges to our beliefs and understandings.

“The new Knight-Wallace Arts Fellow will be a catalyst of such conversations, especially for U-M students, and amplify the impact of the arts for all.”

Read the full story over at The Record.

University creates new position to oversee public art collection

The University of Michigan has created a new cross-campus position, curator of art in public spaces, to oversee the display, acquisition and overall curation strategy of U-M’s public art collection.

In addition, the U-M Museum of Art and the Arts Initiative have announced that Jennifer Carty has been hired to fill that position effective Oct. 23.

In coordination with the Office of the President, Carty will serve as a creative, collaborative arts leader for the campus, managing which works of art will be exhibited both permanently and temporarily on U-M’s campuses. She will work with artists on new commission projects, and will play a key role in coordinating cross-campus collaborations related to public art.

The curator will work closely with the President’s Advisory Committee on Public Art, which strives to enrich the university’s visual environment by positioning works of public art of the highest caliber by a broad diversity of artists across campus.

Reporting jointly to UMMA Director Christina Olsen and Mark Clague, interim executive director of the Arts Initiative, the curator of art in public spaces will lead efforts to develop compelling, complex and engaging projects that will speak to relevant topics in the world today and place art and ideas at the center of campus life.

“Jenny is amazing, and in her new role as our inaugural curator of art in public spaces she will bring a visibility and coherence to public art across campus for the first time,” Olsen said.

“Her combination of experience on campuses across the country and knowledge and relationships with artists puts U-M in a great position to embed globally important art and ideas into campus conversations in meaningful ways.”

Carty is a 2010 graduate of LSA, and comes with a breadth and depth of experience activating campuses and communities with public art programs. Her most recent role was associate curator of modern and contemporary art at the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art. She also has worked at the Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University and Michigan State University’s Broad Art Museum.

“I am thrilled to be joining the teams at UMMA and the Arts Initiative to build upon the exhilarating momentum surrounding the arts on campus,” Carty said. “Public art has the unique capacity to give voice to the identity of its place, to ignite creative and critical thought, and galvanize communities.

“At the University of Michigan, a leading public university dedicated to creating a culture of diversity, belonging and accessibility, the potential for public art is unmatched. As an alum, I am delighted to be returning to campus and honored for the opportunity to take on this exciting new role.”

The curator of art in public spaces will work closely with a wide array of cross-campus partners, including the President’s Advisory Committee on Public Art, UMMA, the Arts Initiative and the Inclusive History Project, sharing responsibility for managing, documenting, tracking and reporting on the collections, as well as advising units looking to commission or place public art.

As U-M aspires to possess a cohesive public art collection of national significance by a broad diversity of artists, Carty’s appointment is a milestone.

 “Ours is truly an art-infused campus, and the museums and concert venues where you’d expect to find it are only a beginning. Outdoor sculpture and other public art challenges us to find beauty and creativity in everything we do,” Clague said.

“Having the first-ever curator of art in public spaces on campus will bring a new intentionality to the role art plays to inspire research and learning, helping us to connect with more diverse ideas and to see the world with fresh eyes focused on possibility.”

Little Amal, symbol of human rights, heads to U-M

ANN ARBOR—Little Amal, a 12-foot puppet of a 10-year-old Syrian refugee child, will be making her way onto the University of Michigan campus as part of a 6,000-mile walk across the U.S. this week.

“This extraordinary event gives us an opportunity to think about how to engage meaningfully and ethically with experiences of disenfranchisement and displacement,” said Sara Blair, vice provost for academic and faculty affairs, and arts and humanities.

The Sept. 23 visit is produced by A2SF in partnership with the Arts Initiative, U-M Museum of Art, the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, and the Ann Arbor District Library. The afternoon walk begins at 3:30 p.m. on the south side of N. University at Thayer Street. The evening walk begins at 7 p.m. at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market in Kerrytown. The events are open to the public.

“A2SF is thrilled to join the U-M Arts Initiative and our partners in welcoming Little Amal, an international symbol of human rights, to Ann Arbor,” said Mike Michelon, executive director of Ann Arbor Summer Festival (A2SF).

Amal Walks Across America began in Boston Sept. 7 and ends in San Diego Nov. 5. Stops include Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Ann Arbor, Detroit, Dearborn, Flint and Chicago. Over nine weeks, Amal will be welcomed by 1,500-plus artists at more than 100 artistic events across 37 towns and cities. 

The project was created by the British production companies The Walk Productions and Good Chance in collaboration with the South African Handspring Puppet Company.

Little Amal’s visit is just one of a range of programs offered as part of the Arts and Resistance theme semester sponsored by the U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, U-M Museum of Art and U-M Arts Initiative. As part of a fall course called “Virtual Realities, Actual Worlds,” students will engage Amal Walks America to consider creative immersive experiences and their social and aesthetic impact.

The city of Ann Arbor awarded a Mayoral Proclamation from Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor earlier this month.

Arts & Resistance theme semester to engage campus, community

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.

ArcPrep: Detroit high school students survey the expansiveness of architecture

DETROIT—Joshua Powell, a recent University of Michigan dual master’s graduate in architecture and urban planning who took part in the first ArcPrep course seven years ago, plans to start a firm with his twin brother someday.

But first, he joined the Quinn Evans architecture firm in Detroit this summer.

“ArcPrep played a big part in establishing that dream and helping it come to fruition,” Powell said. “It’s pivotal for opening doors for students and helping you understand how to design.”

Video Produced by Harry Mayers, Michigan MediaAll photos by Eric Bronson, Michigan Photography

ArcPrep is a collaboration between the U-M Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and Detroit Public Schools Community District that expands opportunities for high school juniors who want to learn about opportunities in the architecture field. It also connects students with architects and designers throughout the city. It’s funded by the Michigan-Mellon Project.

“If you can’t see it, you can’t be it,” said Torri Smith, co-director of ArcPrep and a lecturer at Taubman College. “I think that drives a lot of the work we do.”

“IT REALLY WAS ARCPREP THAT ENABLED ME TO KNOW THIS IS WHAT I WANTED. AND WITHOUT THIS PROGRAM I WOULDN’T HAVE KNOWN THAT I WANTED TO PURSUE A CAREER IN ARCHITECTURE.” — Joshua Powell, an ArcPrep student in 2015, who started working at a Detroit architecture firm this summer.

Established in 2015, ArcPrep transforms architectural education for roughly 60 Detroit-based high school juniors each year. Nearly 500 students have gone through the program so far.

“ArcPrep is intended to create empowering and experimental learning environments where young, emergent designers are treated as experts in the context of their cities and neighborhoods,” said Anya Sirota, associate dean of academic initiatives at Taubman College.

Torri Smith, co-director of ArcPrep and a lecturer at Taubman College.

“In this way, ArcPrep not only teaches about architecture, it offers a portal for our college’s students into Detroit communities, helping students share and understand what is at stake, and how transformation can be guided in the most equitable way by the design disciplines.”

Statistically, 2% of licensed architects in the United States are African American and fewer are Latino, Sirota said.

“You ask who is going to build this city and for whom. It’s about diversifying our discipline,” she said. “It’s also a way to give back and participate in the construction of a more equitable city.”


On a recent rainy morning in Detroit, 12 Cass Technical High School students made their way from Woodward Avenue to the North End via the QLine and a two-mile walk to tour Detroit native and artist Scott Hocking’s studio and junkyard. Hocking has been creating sculptures and photography projects in Detroit for more than 25 years. He draws inspiration from found objects, industrial castoffs and wasted materials.

The half-day trip fulfills two important goals of the four-month-long program—professional practice (exposing students to myriad professional pathways available) and building society (the reimagination of public spaces, with the understanding that designers inflect dynamic social conditions within building walls and beyond).

Anya Sirota, associate dean of academic initiatives at Taubman College.

Whether or not students are interested in architecture, ArcPrep teaches critical skills, including design, project management, technological and software proficiency, problem solving, communication and visualization. Students are developing the necessary technical proficiencies to complete a sophisticated final project.

“My plans for college … I want to do architecture. I’m pretty inclined to do it now, and if not architecture, I would want to go into the creative design space,” said ArcPrep student Royshawn Tye-Horn.

“The concepts that we use in ArcPrep can be applied to other fields. I’ve been leaning toward graphic design because we work with a lot of software like Photoshop, and going to these visits I’ve seen so many different parts of the architecture firms. But now the class feels like there will be some urban planners, there will be some fashion designers, maybe some true architects, maybe some team leaders. It showed me that it’s so diverse in the architecture field.”

The program runs five days a week at the Michigan Research Studio in downtown Detroit, a block away from the U-M Detroit Center. The program takes DPSCD students through five modules a semester. Each module—tool box; food, culture and access; institutions and civil liberties; technology and the city; final project—is meant to show students opportunities of the practice.

Students work on projects at the Michigan Research Studio in Detroit.

“We’re just beginning to see the program’s full circle benefits at work,” said ArcPrep co-director Salam Rida. “We’re now seeing students who were in the program as high schoolers seven years ago, students that went through a semester of ArcPrep and then as a result went to U-M’s Taubman College, and now they’re working full-time with architecture firms in Detroit.”

Last fall, 15 students spent the semester reimagining Detroit’s Fisher Body Plant No. 21, a long-abandoned Detroit factory, in partnership with an engineering educator from Cass Tech.

This semester, the students are working on a final project: “One room, one tower.” The students are reimagining affordable housing, increasing access to public green spaces and parks, and community ownership.

ArcPrep gives high school juniors challenges they wouldn’t typically find in a high school classroom.

ArcPrep student Royshawn Tye-Horn.

“We’re learning InDesign, Adobe and other cool programs that help us make architecture models,” Tye-Horn said.


Back in his studio, Hocking is discussing candidly his own humble beginnings—from growing up poor in Redford to a struggle with drugs and homelessness in his early 20s to his recent successes in his 40s with his exhibition “Retrograde,” a culmination of 25 years of work, at the Cranbrook Art Museum.

ArcPrep co-director Salam Rida, center, works with students at the Michigan Research Studio in Detroit.

He tells the ArcPrep students of the work he’s been doing for the past quarter century, which mainly consists of art installations in abandoned Detroit buildings (creating pyramid sculptures with old bricks) and photography projects (photographing more than 500 abandoned boats all around Detroit).

“I wanted to change people’s perceptions of what Detroit used to be, of what these abandoned buildings used to be, and what could be,” he said.

One of the students perks up as he hears Hocking mention a neighborhood not far from where he lives now, while discussing Detroit as an “art site” for his life’s work and the importance of making things out of industrial waste.

“Just keep doing it, just keep making art no matter what people say or if you’ve had success. Just keep doing it,” Hocking tells the students.

Students tour Detroit native and artist Scott Hocking’s studio and junkyard.

Community artists like Hocking show the students the vast possibilities that exist in their own backyard. They start with design fundamentals. By the end of the semester, they move on to addressing big challenges, such as the future of Detroit’s cultural institutions, urban farming and public space design.

“ArcPrep was where I really understood what this discipline was. Like, what does it mean to be a building designer? To be a space designer?” Powell said. “ArcPrep is what really showed me how to move through this space, and this is how you really make yourself kind of known as a designer and as an architect.”