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.”
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.”
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.
“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).
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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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.”