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Visual & Design Arts

Remembering U-M alumnus and artist Jason Polan (1982-2020)

By Truly Render

The Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design has created a new $25,000 prize to advance the project of one graduating senior.

A Michigan native responsible for the “Ant Alley” mural on Maynard Street in Ann Arbor, Jason Polan graduated from the University of Michigan in 2004 with a dual degree in Art & Design and Anthropology.

After graduation, Polan moved to New York City, where his ambitious project, Every Person in New York, rose to critical acclaim.

According to art critic Dave Delcambre in a 2009 exhibition review of Polan’s work for Indy Weekly, “[Polan’s] most significant accomplishment is that he has taken seemingly random things from everyday life, internalized them and made them into something highly personal.”

Recent drawing by Polan.

Polan’s illustrations have appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, and numerous other publications. His books include The Every Piece of Art in the Museum of Modern Art Book and Every Person in New York.

Stamps School of Art & Design Professor Nick Tobier remembers Polan fondly. “I remember him writing to me wishing me happy Marcel Duchamp’s birthday. Also Buckminster Fuller,” Tobier said. “His entry to the annual student show was a proposal for the Dean to purchase all the work in the show and give it to UMMA. He was a great student.”

In 2018, Stamps faculty member Bill Burgard brought Polan to the Stamps School as part of the Witt Visiting Artists program. “When Jason came to my classes he shared many stories about his commissions and his self-promotion that amazed the students, like getting hired by Uniqlo to draw Spiderman and them flying him to Japan,” Burgard said.

“Jason was like no other artist or student I have known. I especially admired and envied his ability to take anything he enjoyed doing and making it into a viable and relevant creative project.”

Mr. Polan is survived by his parents, Jesse and Jane Gordon Polan, and a sister, Jamie MacDonald.

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