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Cannupa Hanska Luger ‘GIFTS’ U-M campus with public art installation

Part of ongoing campuswide initiative to challenge university history, reexamine what gets memorialized

The University of Michigan Museum of Art has a new face. 

Across the facade of Alumni Memorial Hall—a neoclassical building that opened in 1910 to commemorate U-M students and staff who served in the Mexican-American, Civil, and Spanish-American wars, and home to UMMA—is the experimental installation, “GIFT,” commissioned by artist Cannupa Hanska Luger. 

“GIFT” is a reference to the 1817 Treaty of Fort Meigs, which states that Ottawa, Chippewa and Potawatomi tribes gifted land that was later sold to establish U-M’s endowments and help create its Ann Arbor campus.

To explore the meaning of gifting within both the contexts of colonialism and Indigenous communities, Luger painted the word “GIFT” in white porcelain clay slip on the columns of the building. In the days following, Luger and a team of collaborators will continue to paint around the letters, covering the entire historic facade with a layer of white clay and eventually covering the letters themselves.

Born on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, Luger is an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes of Fort Berthold. According to a statement from his website, Luger creates “monumental installations, sculpture and performance to communicate urgent stories about 21st Century Indigeneity (by combining) critical cultural analysis with dedication and respect for the diverse materials, environments and communities he engages, while provoking diverse audiences to engage with Indigenous peoples and values apart from the lens of colonial social structuring,” 

Luger said the stone of Alumni Memorial Hall is sandstone from Ohio that was quarried and extracted, and rebuilt into a Greek and Romanesque story in Michigan. 

“The architecture itself embeds a history into the campus that was never here,” he said. “It is a monument to civilization and thought and enlightenment; but it is also an imposition and an extraction from the very land that we’re standing on. With ‘GIFT,’ I want to do the same thing, present an imposition drawn from an extraction. 

“Using Kaolin, a white clay from North America, I’m going to resurface the exterior of the Museum, presenting it as white as I think it is. And then in cooperation and relationship with the environment, the weather will remove that thin exterior and re-expose the indigenous stone of the land.”

Through this commission, UMMA opens the door for the campus community to consider the monuments they have inherited and imagine what possible new structures are needed to commemorate histories that have been invisible or underrepresented. 

This is a key example of programming around the U-M theme semester, Arts & Resistance—a cross-campus partnership between UMMA, U-M Arts Initiative and the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts—which reflects on how creativity and making can arise out of oppression and destruction.

Symbolism of “GIFT”

With “GIFT,” Luger activates weather and time as co-conspirators, challenging perceptions of permanence in memory, history and even physical structures. The installation embraces the meaning of “gifting” within Indigenous communities, where it signifies the giver’s success, abundance and ability to offer something of value. 

In this way, “GIFT” prompts critical thinking about cultural perspectives and encourages more nuanced thinking about historic storytelling and mythmaking. 

UMMA is also implicated in this essential process, as museums stand as stewards of cultural history and heritage. The use of the white clay slip and its slow dissolution signifies an invitation to dismantle the existing white-centric structures that guide many museum practices. 

You’re welcome

“GIFT” is but one part of “Cannupa Hanska Luger: You’re Welcome,” Luger’s three-part project that examines the history of the land on which U-M sits and its relationship to broader dialogues about land sovereignty, colonialism, memorialization and the cultural perspectives of and implications for Indigenous communities. 

Ozi Uduma, Cannupa Hanska Luger and Paul Farber, co-curators of "You're Welcome"
Ozi Uduma, Cannupa Hanska Luger and Paul Farber, co-curators of “You’re Welcome”

The in-gallery exhibition of “You’re Welcome” creates a dynamic interplay between several of the artist’s sculptural installations and works selected from UMMA’s expansive collection. 

The project also includes the Monument Lab: Public Classroom, which offers a space for dialogue and further contemplation of key themes within “You’re Welcome,” especially the central curatorial question: “How do we remember on this campus?” 

“As we work together with our communities on creating relevant and meaningful artistic experiences, we necessarily need to examine how museums both produce and disseminate shared cultural history—both as it was once told and also as it is being retold today,” said UMMA Director Christina Olsen. “Our collaboration with Cannupa Hanska Luger allows us to reshape the narrative of a building central to our museum and to our campus to reflect a broader, more nuanced and more accurate history that embraces different perspectives and lifts up diverse cultural experiences.” 

“GIFT” was commissioned by UMMA with support from the U-M Arts Initiative. “Cannupa Hanska Luger: You’re Welcome” is curated by Ozi Uduma, UMMA’s assistant curator of global contemporary art​​, and Paul Farber, director and co-founder of Monument Lab and curator-in-residence for the Arts Initiative. It will remain on view through Feb.18, 2024, and is free and open to the public. 

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.

U-M Taubman College pioneering AI’s role in the future of architecture

ANN ARBOR—The University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning is leading the way in using artificial intelligence in architecture.

“As a society, we are already surrounded by AI tools, such as unlocking your phone with facial recognition or asking questions and getting answers from a virtual assistant like Alexa,” said Matias del Campo, associate professor at Taubman College and director of the Architecture and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, or AR2IL. “AI is now going to change architecture. If we do not engage with it, somebody else will do it for us, and then we have no control over the future of our own field.”

Any AI application is only as good as its data, so how can architects contribute to long term, reliable AI use in the field? By becoming involved in data input early and often, and contributing diverse and inclusive voices to the datasets.

“If you look at some of the early datasets already out there, you immediately notice that they are not done by architects, because they do not understand the qualities of architecture, such as the difference between a bad house and a good house,” Del Campo said. “This is why we need to contribute to the databases now and make sure they reflect architectural excellence, and also have less of the racial or cultural bias that has become evident in the older databases used in other fields.”

He proposes that addressing potential biases in the field is one of the most important roles architects in business and academia will play moving forward. Databases will remain vital components as AI expands from so-called “expert systems” that process only the input data to inform decisions, to systems that leverage the multitude of data by searching through it for recurring patterns or features and assembling them into unique designs.

“If we are involved (from the beginning), then we can use them to advance the field and make life better for people,” del Campo said.

An AI revolution

U-M architects—in collaboration with colleagues in robotics, computer science and engineering, and data science—have led the charge at Taubman College with the development of AR2IL, an interdisciplinary lab created to improve the application of AI in research fields of architecture, robotics and others. This interdisciplinary approach of the lab, paired with diverse perspectives, has led to a valuable interchange of ideas within and across research groups.

AR2IL is bringing together experts from across the field and other universities to discuss this emerging paradigm shift in architecture. U-M faculty and visiting faculty from Yale University, University of Texas, Texas A&M University, Florida Atlantic University and University of California, Berkeley, presented their initial findings in November 2022 at the first U-M Neural Architecture Symposium. Colleagues convened again at the recent Data Justice, AI, & Design Colloquium in February 2023.

Still not quite human

Much of the conversation around this emerging field is centered on the unintended consequences of AI, risk-benefit analysis of the new technology, and the amount of human-labor and oversight that goes into maintaining these AI systems (i.e., ChatGPT) and databases.

Most AI-driven design capabilities are generated by humans without accounting for “lived experiences” that robots simply do not have. For example, speakers at the recent Data Justice, AI, & Design Colloquium discussed the frequent lack of foresight behind certain AI products like the germ-killing robots developed by Carnegie Robotics being utilized at Pittsburgh International Airport to eliminate microbes in high-traffic areas.

A panel discussed how these robots still require monitoring from airport janitorial staff to do things like clean up water left behind in restrooms so travelers don’t get injured during their journey.

“The robots essentially need babysitters,” said Sarah Fox, assistant professor of human-computer interaction at Carnegie-Mellon University.

Architectural applications, like DALL-E, are capable of creating AI-generated images with written prompts, but they still require complex algorithms and heavy human oversight in order to generate appropriate architectural building designs or plans for cities.

New technologies

On a mission to address the lack of lived experiences among robots, research groups at U-M are hard at work on new technologies, such as autonomous robots capable of performing on-site construction tasks at the U-M Robot Garden, while studying how robots interact with their surrounding environment.

SPAN, the award-winning international architecture practice co-founded by del Campo and Sandra Manninger, architect and researcher at the New York Institute of Technology, is undergoing early-stage research and development into the use of AI technology to teach spatial recognition on job sites and the development of other key lived experiences, like engaging with humans and recognizing their facial expressions.

The future of AI and its role in architecture is limitless, but the work continues.

The University Musical Society Announces 2022/23 Season

A season opener with Trevor Noah. The Berlin Philharmonic and a lineup of international ensembles. A week-long residency with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. The return of the UMS curated series and the No Safety Net renegade festival. And so much more to discover…

SEASON LAUNCHES WITH TREVOR NOAH

Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah

On Friday, September 16, Trevor Noah opens UMS’s 144th season with a bang, bringing his “Back to Abnormal” tour to Hill Auditorium.

Following his widely-viewed virtual talk with U-M students in 2020, the host of Comedy Central’s Emmy and Peabody Award-winning The Daily Show comes to Ann Arbor for his first live UMS stand-up set.

WYNTON MARSALIS RETURNS FOR JAZZ AT LINCOLN CENTER ORCHESTRA WEEK-LONG RESIDENCY

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis returns to Ann Arbor for a week-long residency that will include two public concerts, a School Day Performance for K-12 students, connections with students at the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance — and a halftime appearance with the Michigan Marching Band!

On Friday, October 14, the ensemble will be joined by the University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra and Choirs, as well as the UMS Choral Union, for Marsalis’s epic blues suite, All Rise (Symphony No. 1).

And on Sunday, October 16, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis returns in its big band format for an afternoon of jazz.

THE RETURN OF OUR CHORAL UNION SERIES

Berliner Philharmoniker with Chief Conductor Kirill Petrenko

Berliner Philharmoniker with Chief Conductor Kirill Petrenko

UMS is thrilled to bring back our curated Choral Union Series! The 11 concert series will feature six orchestras, including two different programs with the Berliner Philharmoniker.

SIX-CONCERT CHAMBER ARTS SERIES BALANCES OLD AND NEW

Emerson String Quartet; Photo Credit: Jurgen Frank

Emerson String Quartet; Photo Credit: Jurgen Frank

The Chamber Arts series returns to Rackham Auditorium with a mix of UMS favorites and exciting new projects.

DANCE SERIES FEATURES PERFORMANCES IN ANN ARBOR AND DETROIT

École des Sables of Senegal; Photo Credit: Maarten Vanden Abeele

École des Sables of Senegal; Photo Credit: Maarten Vanden Abeele

UMS’s dance series will take place in three beloved venues across Southeast Michigan: the Power Center, the Detroit Opera House, and Hill Auditorium.

JAZZ SERIES INCLUDES FIVE WIDE-RANGING PERFORMANCES

Cécile McLorin Salvant

Cécile McLorin Salvant

In five wide-ranging performances, this season’s Jazz Series features performers at the forefront of the genre.

NO SAFETY NET 3.0 CREATES SPACE FOR COMMUNITY DIALOGUE ON SOCIALLY-ENGAGED ART

Are we not drawn onward to new erA, Ontroerend Goed; Photo Credit: Mirjam Devriendt

Are we not drawn onward to new erA, Ontroerend Goed; Photo Credit: Mirjam Devriendt

The festival launches with the Belgian theater company Ontroerend Goed with a uniquely palindromic work about the environment — a piece that uses creative stagecraft to give hope that we can undo some of the damage that has already been done.

Details on the remaining productions and artists, along with a robust set of contextual activities, will be announced in Fall 2022.

PLUS MUCH MORE!

Including the great Mexican ranchera singer Aida Cuevas (Friday, November 4); the annual performances of Handel’s Messiah (Saturday-Sunday, December 3-4); and a double bill of Béla Fleck’s My Bluegrass Heart and Punch Brothers (Friday, December 16).

‘A Lesson in Longing’: U-M students team up to create portraits of their campus community

After transferring to the University of Michigan in fall 2020, N’Dea Shelton, a senior studying history at the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, was looking for a way to get to know her new classmates.

“As a transfer student, I wanted to connect with this university better,” she said. “I wanted to get to know who was here because it is really easy sometimes to just live—to just walk and not pay attention to anyone.”

At the same time, Michael O’Brien, a first-year MBA student at the Ross School of Business and a photographer, was also seeking to understand his new community and the U-M culture.

With this shared desire to make meaningful connections, O’Brien and Shelton have collaborated on “A Lesson in Longing,” a project that combines photography, interviews, music and text to produce multidimensional portraits of U-M students. The project takes its name from a 2019 Jennifer Packer painting of two figures within a spectral domestic interior.

The two artists were brought together by the U-M Arts Initiative, having served this past semester as Creative Fellows for its “Bridging the Divide” project. The initiative aims to expand art access and promote art making by U-M students across all disciplines, and it launched “Bridging the Divide” to support and mentor student work focused on connection, collaboration and healing. Twenty-one students across eight university units participated as inaugural Creative Fellows for the project.

To create the portraits of “A Lesson in Longing,” O’Brien and Shelton developed a two-part process that generated multiple portraits of each subject. First, O’Brien photographed each subject in their home. He deliberately chose a technically cumbersome film-based process for these portrait sessions, a 4×5 camera, in an effort to slow down and spend time with his subjects. Each photo shoot lasted up to two hours, he said.Those same students were then interviewed by Shelton, who asked them to complete statements such as “I’m on a journey toward,” “The world would be a better place with” and “One song that describes my place in life is.” To produce her portraits, Shelton then overlaid the interviewees’ answers on photos taken by the subjects themselves from their windows. She also included Spotify codes to the subject’s selected songs.

While O’Brien’s photos capture a subject’s likeness, Shelton’s text-based images are fully anonymous and won’t be displayed side-by-side with the students’ photos when “A Lesson in Longing” is installed April 8. Similar to O’Brien’s goal in engaging long portrait sessions, Shelton promised anonymity in her portraits so her subjects felt free to be honest and open in their answers.

“They are free to say what they want to say without anyone casting judgment, without anyone attributing their picture or face to anything they say,” Shelton said.

The collaborators chose to work with students they may not have otherwise encountered in order to center the process of building relationships through art making.

“I’m drawn to photographing communities that I’m a part of, essentially in an effort to get to know them better,” O’Brien said. “I’d basically been making portraits of family members, and I really wanted to make portraits of people I didn’t know.”

“On a personal level, I wanted to build confidence speaking to people at this university,” Shelton said. “With this project, people have been extremely willing to share their opinions and pieces of their lives with me.”

Taken together, O’Brien’s and Shelton’s images depict multiple facets and different perspectives of the students that make up the U-M campus community.

“I describe Michael’s role as capturing the person in their environment, and my role was to try to capture the person’s personality that maybe the photo doesn’t show, the words that they say and what they feel,” Shelton said.

“A Lesson in Longing​​” will be on view 4:30-7 p.m. April 8 at the Nichols Arboretum Reader Center at 1610 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor, as part of a special showcase of all the Arts Initiative “Bridging the Divide” projects.

The reception with art, food and music is free and open to the public.

FestiFools returns with even more fools and a new location

After two years, FestiFools makes its vibrant return to the streets of Ann Arbor April 3.

The fest’s signature larger-than-life papier-mâché puppets, created by students of the University of Michigan Lloyd Scholars for Writing and the Arts, will descend upon campus held up by their creators, community members and loved ones.

And for the last time, the chaos will be orchestrated by “the original fool,” Mark Tucker; he will pass the baton to a new puppetmaster for future annual FestiFools productions. In honor of his final FestiFools, Tucker will be contributing his own puppet to the parade this year.

The puppets’ route will take place on State Street between William Street and South University Avenue allowing more space for social distancing than their previous Main Street location.

“There is so much here pedagogically that I love,” said Tucker, academic program officer for the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. “I love watching a student—especially a non-art major, which is mostly what I teach—I love watching their journey from having an idea in their imagination to creating it all three dimensionally, and doing the engineering inside, and going through the trials and tribulations of actually making a piece manifest.”

The majority of the puppets that march each year in the FestiFools parade are made in Tucker’s class, “Art in Public Spaces,” with additional help from the community. Students from all disciplines are encouraged to explore the making of large-scale theatrical scenery, as well as the creation of large-scale public spectacles.

There will be at least 15 new, original puppets this year. Each puppet takes a minimum of three people to carry; some take as many as six or more. And as much fun as it is to watch, “it is a lot more fun to be under a puppet animating it and interacting with the crowd,” Tucker said.

And what comes next for Tucker? He will continue teaching his class, but the creative content will be presented in a new, still to be determined, way. He is considering an entirely new event, pop-up experiences, or even bringing some foolishness and fun to new towns in Michigan.

“Creatively I’m ready for a new adventure and I’m going to segue in May over to UMMA (U-M Museum of Art) where we will take the FestiFools community model inside a museum and have folks coming there to create an exhibition together,” he said.

The interactive exhibition, FUN, is scheduled May 14-Sept. 4, 2022. The inspiration for this year’s FestiFools puppets was drawn from each student’s favorite piece at UMMA, and some puppets may even be given a second life as seed materials for FUN.

FestiFools is free and open to the public. The festivities will take place this weekend, with FoolMoon kicking off 6-10 p.m. Friday, April 1, in Kerrytown. FestiFools will follow 4-5 p.m. Sunday, April 3, on State Street in Ann Arbor.

The arts add fresh perspective to social impact design discussion at “Size Up” event

ANN ARBOR—Equal parts scholarly gathering and collaborative happening, “Size Up: Changing Paradigms in Social Impact Design” aims to spark hybrid, flexible and engaging conversations through a series of workshops led by Detroit-based artists and activists. The event, 3-9 p.m. Thursday, March 31, at the University of Michigan Art & Architecture Building, stands as a prototype for what the blended future of academic happenings could look like. The symposium makes it possible to engage locally while still tapping into global expertise, and creates multiple layers of equity and access by ensuring that scholarship is not siloed from the communities they seek to impact, organizers say.

Faculty from the U-M Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning will be moderating panel discussions to invite reflection and input from design and public sector experts. The event is free and open to the public.

Germane to the mission of “Size Up” is its participatory framework which encourages attendees to question expertise; it asks students and faculty to learn from each other, equalizing the production and source of knowledge. Short workshops are held after each speaker’s presentation providing a platform to “hash out the ideas live” and collectively digest their hypothetical impact.

“It’s a way for us to first equalize the playing field between the international experts and our Detroit-based experts to make sense of what is considered in a scholarly manner and understand how it really impacts communities and how we work and live,” said Anya Sirota, associate dean for academic initiatives at Taubman. “We treat everyone equally in their expertise. I think that’s very important for us from a DEI framework.  Scholarship is not disengaged from local actors. We’re in it together.”

Social impact design bridges many disciplines, attracting those seeking to address humanitarian issues and to make a positive impact in the world. For this reason, the Taubman College has also made great efforts to actively infuse the arts and the value of building and supporting culture into the discussion. Bringing in musicians from Detroit, including My Detroit Players, DJ Los, and Emily Rogers, the 2022 Wallenberg Symposium emphasizes diversity, equity and inclusion, while helping to debunk the idea that entertainment arts and scholarship are separate, Sirota said. 

In the process, the event showcases work that equitably addresses social problems, especially in places where design is traditionally unavailable or inaccessible. 

“All of this is not about how DEI is aspirational. It’s actually living the concepts by introducing radical horizontality in terms of who produces new knowledge,” she said. 

“For me, this is a DEI framework lived and not projected. I think we’re going to work very hard to start living by this ethos and these concepts. Rather than planning for the future, I think we’re going to start now.”

Sirota and Jose Sanchez, a Detroit-based architect, game designer and theorist, are moderators for the event, which is also sponsored by U-M Public Design Corps.

Speakers: Global leaders in social impact design

The Collectif Etc. (Maxence Bohn) is a nonprofit organization based in France that collaborates with local communities to address the use of public spaces.

Chokwe Antar Lumumba is the mayor of Jackson, Mississippi. 

Niklas Maak is the arts editor of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and an architecture theoretician working in Berlin.

Mitsuhiro Sakakibara is a Kyoto-based architectural and urban researcher. 

Tatjana Schneider is a professor for history and theory of architecture and the city at the Technical University Braunschweig, Germany. 

 

Facilitators: Detroit-based artists and activists

Sherrine Azab is the co-director of the Detroit-based theater ensemble A Host of People

Jake Hooker is a writer, director, projection designer, scholar and educator. He teaches in the U-M Department of Theatre.

Billy Mark is an interdisciplinary artist who lives and works in Detroit.

 Gina Reichert is an artist, architect and community developer who founded Power House Productions.

Sarah Rose Sharp is a Detroit-based writer, activist and multimedia artist. 

 

Music: Live performance 

My Detroit Players features bassist Emily Rogers, a producer who works as a songwriter, musician, dancer, choreographer, event curator, musical director, host and DJ. Other members include: JRGotTheHiTS (drums), Shaphan Maestro Williams (keys),  Duminie Deporres (guitar), DJ Los (turntables), Zac Land (trombone) and Nick Speed (vocals and music production center).

The symposium continues the tradition of honoring the humanitarian work of Raoul Wallenberg, a Taubman College alumnus distinguished for his courageous actions in German-occupied Hungary during World War II. 

More information: Jacob Comerci

Prison artwork live again after 2 years of digital versions

ANN ARBOR—The University of Michigan Prison Creative Arts Project presents the 26th annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners, the largest exhibition in the world of its kind.

“Falling Down Locked Up,” Ink & Colored Pencil. Image credit: Tyler Gaastra

The free, public exhibition highlights the work of 392 artists from 26 state correctional facilities in Michigan. It features 714 paintings, drawings and three-dimensional works. 

After two years of not being able to meet the artists in person (the 2020 show was canceled and last year’s exhibition was virtual), PCAP staff and volunteers had strong reactions to reconnecting with them.

“There was no greater joy I experienced this year than visiting artists in prison,” said PCAP Director Nora Krinitsky. “Despite everything, PCAP artists have persevered and they continue to create works of great ingenuity, nuance, thoughtfulness and playfulness. I’m humbled by it.” 

For Krinitsky, art selection trips to each facility are at the heart of the exhibition because this is when powerful dialogue happens between artists and volunteers. 

MSW graduate Emily Cole was among the group of U-M students, staff, faculty, community members and local artists who traveled to all 26 participating prisons in Michigan in search of the best works of art created.

“I learned a great deal about what inspires their work, such as their family, passions outside of art, and the goals that they have set for themselves in the future,” Cole said.

The show features diversity of both artists and artistic choices. Artists range from 18 to 80 years old, men and women from across the state with diverse racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Most pieces are for sale, with proceeds going directly to the artists.

Last year, almost half of the 823 pieces were sold, generating $28,945 in just two weeks. There is a broad array of artistic media and subject matter, including landscapes, portraits, prison scenes and political statements. 

“Many artists chose to respond visually to several topics that currently dominate the news and public discourse,” said curator Charlie Michaels. “They include emotional and thoughtful reflections on isolation and COVID-19, on the American political landscape, and personal perspectives on race and the Black Lives Matter movement.”

  • "At our Wit's End," Paint. Image credit: Serge Tkachenko
  • "Curiosity Built the World," Acrylic. Image credit: Albert Kakosky III
  • "Even in the Dark, There's Beauty," Acrylic. Image credit: Daniel Teribery
  • “3 Dodo Birds, Acrylic. Image credit: Darryl Rattew

Senior curator Janie Paul started the Annual Exhibition in 1996 with her husband and PCAP founder Buzz Alexander. Paul, a community-based artist and U-M professor emerita whose primary focus is the capacity of visual meaning-creation as a vehicle for social change, has been bringing art from prisons across the state to campus each year.  

Paul and Alexander traveled to 16 prisons in Michigan to collect art for the first show in 1996. 

"We were just mind-blown by the work," Paul said. "We discovered it was such an important event both for the artists inside and for the community. It brought us all together."

The exhibition is at the Duderstadt Gallery, 2281 Bonisteel Blvd. on U-M's North Campus March 22-April 5. Gallery hours are noon-6 p.m. Sunday and Monday; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. 

The opening celebration begins at 6:30 p.m. March 22. It features speakers from U-M and the Michigan Department of Corrections, artists from previous exhibitions and a performance by the U-M Out of the Blue choir. 

Women’s History Month: Events and Exhibitions at U-M

Women’s History Month is a celebration of women’s contributions to history, culture and society and has been observed annually in the month of March in the United States since 1987. This month, enjoy the following selection of events, exhibitions, performances, and presentations—in-person and at home—that will shine light on women’s rights historically, on racial equality for women of color, and more.

In-person Events:

STITCHED TOGETHER FWC CENTENNIAL QUILTING EXHIBITION

To celebrate the U-M Faculty Women’s Club 100th anniversary, its Quilting Section proudly presents examples of the many traditional and non-traditional quilts their members have designed and created. Special opening day hours & chat with quilters: 2-4pm on Sunday, March 6th.

When: March 6 – 15, 2022

CFE NETWORKING EVENT: THIS ONE’S FOR THE GIRLS: A NETWORKING EVENT FEATURING GUEST SPEAKER MARIANNA KERPPOLA, FOUNDER AND CEO OF POISERA.

This One’s for the Girls: a networking event featuring guest speaker Marianna Kerppola, Founder and CEO of Poisera. Poisera helps moms forge their own journey. Through daily, personalized check-in conversations, we help moms navigate the highs and lows of pregnancy and postpartum. Women have been driving change, scaling heights, and breaking barriers for centuries. Come join fellow women in tech as we shine a spotlight on Ann Arbor and University of Michigan women leading change in our very own communities.

When: Thursday March 10,  5:00 PM – 6:30 PM EDT

At Home Events:

40TH ANNUAL WCTF CAREER CONFERENCE | THE TIME IS NOW!

The Women of Color Task Force is excited to host its 40th annual career conference free this year on March 4, 2022. This historic event will be a free virtual 1-day conference featuring a keynote fireside chat with Social Justice Leader and Movement Strategist, Tamika D. Mallory, one of the organizers of the 2017 Women’s March on Washington and co-president of The Women’s March, Inc. Ms. Mallory will be discussing the conference theme: “The Time is Now!”

When: Friday, March 4, 8:30 AM – 4:00 PM EDT

CEW+INSPIRE MIDWEEK MINDFULNESS-GUIDED SIT

As part of the CEW+Inspire initiative, CEW+ holds mindful meditation sits virtually on Wednesdays at 12:15. Mindfulness Meditation is a skill that can be learned and when practiced has the power to enhance a sense of wellbeing, focus, and interconnectedness. As we all continue to navigate uncertainty and challenges that are inherent in the act of being human, we benefit from and are grateful for diverse cultures and traditions across the globe. 

When: Wednesdays at 12:15 PM EDT

REVERSING THE SHE-CESSION: A MODERATED CONVERSATION ON EMPOWERING WOMEN AND GETTING BACK TO WORK

In conjunction with Women’s History Month and the Alumni Association’s Diversity Dialogue Series, join three panelists as they provide advice and tangible career insights for alumni as they navigate re-entry into the workforce after a career gap or break due to COVID or other reasons. Featuring Alumnae panelists, Dr. Lynn Wooten will address her research on the she-cession, panelist, Natalie Paul, will discuss insights and advice from a recruiter perspective and the use of LinkedIn. Last but not least, hear the empowering story of fellow alum, Jill Sacher who got back to work after a 14-year career break.

When: Thursday, March 17, 12 PM EDT

THE CLEMENTS BOOKWORM: “WOMEN IN PHOTOGRAPHS” COLLECTOR’S CORNER WITH CYNTHIA MOTZENBECKER

In celebration of Women’s History Month, prolific collector Cynthia Motzenbecker will share and discuss historic images of women from her private collection. Beginning with daguerreotypes and ambrotypes, she will comment on the development of techniques and photographic history illustrated by her examples. Motzenbecker is a member and past president of the Michigan Photographic Historical Society.

When: Friday, March 18, 10 AM EDT

UMSI students provide Arab American National Museum invaluable community accessibility and usability expertise

The halls of the stately Arab American National Museum (AANM), usually echoing with the patter of feet and expressions of awe, have sat silently awaiting the return of patrons since March 2020.

With the pandemic necessitating the temporary closure of AANM’s physical space, the institution turned to University of Michigan School of Information (UMSI) students for assistance and expertise in improving the digital accessibility of the museum’s collections.

Located in Dearborn, Michigan, AANM is the only museum out of the nation’s 35,000 that is dedicated to preserving, celebrating and sharing Arab American culture. The institution has long been a champion of curatorial accessibility; however, ensuring that its tens of thousands of annual in-person visitors have the same intimate and meaningful interactions with its online collections is a new challenge.

While the museum was closed due to the pandemic, staff hosted an online music festival, in their pajamas, from Yasmine Nasser Diaz’s “Teenage Bedroom” installation. Video by AANM. 

“The pandemic and our inability to have visitors come to the museum really forced us to ask who’s accessing our things online, who do we want to be accessing them and whether they’re getting the full experience that we want them to,” says Matt Jaber Stiffler, the research and content manager at AANM and lecturer within the U-M College of Literature, Science and the Arts’ American Culture department.

To answer these questions, Master of Science in Information (MSI) students William Cheng, Michelle Torby and Angel Caranna met regularly with Stiffler as part of the fall 2020 SI 547: Engaging with Communities course, led by clinical associate professor David Wallace. The class is client-based, meaning that companies, nonprofits or organizations host student teams that work to address real-world information challenges.

UMSI’s Engaged Learning Office helps recruit projects for the course that facilitate community partnerships and allow students to make an impact while building their portfolio through real-world experiences. In SI 547, students are challenged to examine the principles, methods and ethics involved in community collaboration.

The Arab American National Museum, located in Dearborn, is the first and only museum in the U.S. that is devoted to Arab-American history and culture.

Wallace says, “This type of experiential, hands-on, client-facing work is fundamental for professional development as it explicitly joins course theories and concepts to pragmatic, real-world problem solving and shaping positive client outcomes.”

At the start of the semester, each student submitted a questionnaire surveying their skills, experience and interests. The students were subsequently matched with projects where they could make a meaningful impact.

Cheng, who graduated from the MSI program in spring 2021, was excited to be a part of AANM’s project because he could exercise both his technical user experience (UX) design skills and his empathetic objectivity.

“I’m an international student, so I can relate to the way that Arab people feel in U.S. society in terms of status and suffering,” Cheng said. He came to UMSI after growing up in Taiwan and earning both a BA and MA in library and information science from National Taiwan University.

The students worked with Stiffler and the team at AANM to set realistic goals. AANM had just migrated to a new website for the first time in 13 years during June 2020. Around the same time, the museum had been forced to lay off nearly two-thirds of its staff due to pandemic budgeting constraints.

The museum’s website contains object, archival, art and library collections in addition to born-digital collections that preserve online content. AANM started the partnership with the intent of making the museum’s digital space more accessible specifically for those with hearing and vision impairments.

Through a series of user interviews, students discovered that people with sensory impairments were not the only users having trouble accessing information on AANM’s new site. The students determined the website needed a stronger structure before it made sense to solely concentrate on audio and visual accessibility.

Entrance to the exhibit “Coming to America” at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn.

“We expanded the project’s scope to focus on general accessibility that could benefit everyone,” says Torby, a second-year MSI student.

Her advice to those taking client-based courses is to “be open to changing the scope of the project and working with the organizations to voice your concerns, because if you don’t, then you can’t best pivot to meet the needs of everyone.”

The students spent four months engaging with the website to create a usability report. During their regular meetings with the team, AANM was receptive and often implemented the students’ suggested changes on the spot.

AANM found the experience of working with the students so useful that when an opportunity arose to continue the partnership during the winter 2021 semester in the SI 622: Needs Assessment Usability course, they seized it. A new group of MSI students, including Austin Zielinski, Jordan Graves, Qinchi Chen and Shujie Li, picked up the project.

In SI 622, students utilize a variety of methods — including observation, surveys, interviews, performance analysis, evaluation in the design/iteration cycle, usability tests and assessment of systems — to provide clients with recommendations for performance improvement. The winter 2021 course was taught by clinical assistant professor Mustafa Naseem.

“The AANM project goal was to better understand how to bring users to the website and how they access information,” says Zielinski, a second-year MSI student.

Epicenter X, a timely exhibition of Saudi Contemporary Art in Dearborn, Michigan opened at the Arab American National Museum (AANM) on 8 July 2017, and ran until 1 October 2017.

The interdisciplinary team assessed the website and held interviews with users and stakeholders. They also conducted comparative analysis assessments with other museums and did usability testing. At the end of the semester, the students sent a report to AANM along with a final video summarizing their findings.

“The recommendations were very clear: Change the wording of headings for clarity, adopt color contrasts to make screen reading easier and run tests to understand how screen readers are picking up the information,” Stiffler shares. “We had really good suggestions, so it’s just a matter of implementing them now.”

Stiffler and his colleagues at AANM were impressed by the final product. “It was very professional, very useful. Throughout our conversations, the team understood what we were trying to do, and the end product will be very helpful for us as we move forward.”

AANM recently reopened to the public and hopes to continue implementing the changes to their website for those interested in exploring the museum’s digital collections. The institution plans on sustaining its relationship with UMSI in the future, too.

“I think it’s great that UMSI is so invested in these projects. It’s really nice that we don’t have to seek out ways to get help, that they’re always there,” Stiffler says.