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'Tis the season: December exhibitions and events at U-M

A dance professor and a Great Lakes researcher from U-M team-up to bring Detroit school kids closer to nature through facilitating a variety of creative activities on Detroit's Belle Isle.

The University of Michigan welcomes one and all to its many museums, gallery exhibitions, and holiday events to get in the spirit throughout the month of December.


UMMA (University of Michigan Museum of Art)

 One of the finest university art museums in the country, UMMA holds collections representing 150 years of art collecting. A dynamic schedule of special exhibitions and interpretative programs connects visitors with the rich artistic legacy of the past and today’s avant-garde.

One of the Museum of Art’s most important roles is its contribution to the academic mission of the University of Michigan. From the research and study uses of the extraordinary works of art in our collections, to the teaching implications of all of our temporary exhibitions, the Museum plays an increasingly central role in the academic life of the University, even as it connects to broad regional and national community audiences.

Gallery Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m.–5 p.m.  Sunday 12–5 p.m. Closed Mondays.

Reflections: An Ordinary Day: UMMA’s second exhibition of Inuit art derived from the Power Family’s generous promised gift to the Museum in 2018 explores the relationship between the artist and the representation of everyday experiences. Through a selection of mid-century to contemporary Inuit prints, drawings, and sculptures that portray seemingly ordinary reflections of daily life along with daydreaming meditations, the exhibition bridges the mundane and the fantastic. 

Mari Katayama: Japanese artist Mari Katayama features her own body in a provocative series of works combining photography, sculpture, and textiles. Born with a developmental condition, the artist had both her legs amputated at the age of nine and has worn prosthetics ever since. In order to fill a deep gap between her own understanding of self and physicality, and contemporary society’s simplistic categorizations, Katayama began to explore her identity by objectifying her body in her art. 

Take Your Pick: Collecting Found Photographs: Take Your Pick invites the Museum’s visitors to select photographs for their permanent collection. This exhibition features 1,000 amateur photographs on loan from the private collection of Peter J. Cohen, who has gathered more than 60,000 snapshots while exploring flea markets in the United States and Europe over two decades. The images he has collected depict all aspects of daily life and reveal the dynamic histories of amateur photography.

The Kelsey Museum

The Kelsey Museum is open every day except for Mondays, and admission is free. There are galleries, special exhibitions, and a collection of more than 100,000 artifacts. The Kelsey provides a range of programs and resources for university audiences, K–12 educators and schools, and the general public. Gallery Hours: Tuesday through Friday 9 a.m.–4 p.m, Saturday through Sunday 1 p.m–4 p.m. 

Exhibition | Graffiti as Devotion along the Nile: El-Kurru, Sudan: Ancient graffiti provide a unique glimpse into the lives of individuals in antiquity. Religious devotion in ancient Kush (a region located in modern-day northern Sudan), involved pilgrimage and leaving informal marks on temples, pyramids, and other monumental structures. These graffiti are found in temples throughout the later (“Meroitic”) period of Kush, when it bordered Roman Egypt. They represent one of the few direct traces of the devotional practices of private people in Kush and hint at individuals’ thoughts, values, and daily lives. At the heart of the show are the hundreds of Meroitic graffiti recently discovered in a rock-cut temple by the Kelsey expedition to El-Kurru in northern Sudan.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Kelsey Museum Holiday Open House: The 2019 Kelsey Museum Holiday Open House will take place 4 – 6 PM. Come partake of music, light fare, and wonderful conversations with Kelsey members, curators, staff, students, and colleagues. The galleries and gift shop will be open.

Saturday, December 14, 2019 (2:00 – 3:00 PM)

Special Exhibition Tour | Graffiti as Devotion along the Nile

UMMNH (University of Michigan Museum of Natural History)

The new U-M Museum of Natural History is now open — with even more exhibits. But don’t just expect a bunch of old bones. Embedded among the labs at U-M’s new Biological Sciences Building, the museum doesn’t just preserve the past; it also shows off the latest in scientific research with interactive exhibits, new programming spaces, and a state-of-the-art Planetarium & Dome Theater! Gallery Hours: Friday through Wednesday 9 a.m.–5 p.m. and Thursday 9 a.m.–8 p.m.

Micro Worlds Lab: The Micro Worlds lab is an interactive space where scientific tools can be used to explore topics such as the biodiversity of microscopic organisms, cells, genetics, and developmental biology.

Exploring Michigan: Celebrate our state’s rich geological formations, awe-inspiring prehistoric life forms, and diverse ecosystems in the Exploring Michigan exhibit.  Life-size dioramas highlight Michigan’s varied habitats and wildlife, and hands-on activities engage kids—and curious people—of all ages.

Planetarium & Dome Theater: New technology visitors to go beyond space to explore the oceans’ reefs, Earth’s geology, weather and more, all with surround sound and in new, comfortable seats! The new digital dome technology brings new perspectives to even the most familiar celestial bodies, constellations, and phenomena, from the Big Dipper to the northern lights.

Science at Work: Fossil Prep Lab: Peer into the Science at Work: Fossil Prep Lab as the U-M Museum of Paleontology chief vertebrate fossil preparator and student lab assistants prepare new fossil specimens from around the world to ready them for study or public display.


With over 20 galleries on campus, various U-M departments and libraries are committed to exploring artistic expression through many different subjects outside of traditional museum spaces. From Humanities to Women’s Studies, and the School of Natural Resources—stop in to view the many exhibitions on view this month.

Lane Hall Gallery

Location: The Lane Hall Gallery is free and open to the public at 204 State St., Ann Arbor, MI, 48109. Hours: Mon.–Fri., 8 a.m.–5 p.m.; Closed Sat.–Sun. & University holidays.

Institute for Humanities Gallery

The current exhibition is “White History Month Vol. 1“by Detroit artist Tylonn J. Sawyer, who presents an alternative to the historical record that often accompanies well known images throughout art history.

Location: The Institute for Humanities Gallery is free and open to the public at 202 S. Thayer St., Ann Arbor, MI 48109. Hours: Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–5 p.m.

Art & Environment Gallery

Location: The Art & Environment Gallery is free and open to the public in the Dana building’s Ford Commons at 440 Church St., Ann Arbor, MI 48109. Hours: Mon.–Fri., 7 a.m.–7 p.m.

U-M Health Systems ‘Gifts of Art’ Galleries

On view until December 6th, “Oil on Water: Painting on Linen” by artist Danielle Eubank features emotive abstract portraits of the world’s oceans and makes an eye-opening declaration about water and the environment.

Location: Gifts of Art galleries and performances are free and open to the public at 1500 E. Medical Center Dr., Ann Arbor, MI 48109. Hours: Events and performance time varies, galleries are open during hospital visiting hours.

Stamps Gallery

The 2019 Undergraduate Juried Exhibition is on view until December 15th, and showcases  the best work produced by Stamps undergraduate students

Location: The Stamps Gallery is free and open to the public at 201 S Division St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104. Hours: Tues.–Wed., 11 a.m.–5 p.m.; Thurs.–Fri., 11 a.m.–7 p.m.; Sat.–Sun., 11 a.m.–5 p.m.


Hatcher Graduate Library

Monday, December 9, 2019 (12PM) 

Used Book Sale 2019: The University Library is selling several thousand gently used books, including duplicate or superseded titles and other books not needed for the collection. We often have maps, pamphlets, CDs and DVDs as well! There’s something for everyone at low, low prices.

The Clark Library

The Clark Library Exhibition Space in the Hatcher Graduate Library, hosts a number of exhibitions, lectures, and performances. It currently has on display “Other Crusoes, Other Islands: Mapping a Complex Legacy,” an exhibition that interrogates the troubled legacy of Daniel Defoe’s seminal English novel.

Location: The Clark Library is located on the 2nd floor of the Hatcher Graduate Library at 913 S. University Ave., Ann Arbor,
MI 48109. Hours: Daily, 8 a.m.–11:45 p.m.

William L. Clements Library

The William L. Clements Library houses original resources for the study of American history and culture from the 15th through the 19th century. Both the library itself and the Avenir Reading Room house temporary and semi-permanent exhibitions including: “The Best of the West: Western Americana at the Clements Library” and “A History of Collecting at the Clements Library, 1903-2019.”

Location: Access to the Avenir Reading Room is through the south entrance of the Clements Library, located at 909 S University Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48109. Hours: Fridays from 10 a.m.–4 p.m., and by special arrangement.


University Musical Society (UMS)

UMS is one of the oldest performing arts presenters in the country, committed to connecting audiences with performing artists from around the world in uncommon and engaging experiences. With a program steeped in music, dance, and theater, UMS contributes to a vibrant cultural community by presenting approximately 60-75 performances and over 100 free educational activities each season. UMS also commissions new work, sponsors artist residencies, and organizes collaborative projects with local, national, and international partners. In the coming month, here are some performances to watch out for:

Saturday, December 7, 2019 (8:00 PM) & Sunday, December 8, 2019 (2:00 PM)

Handel’s Messiah: Handel’s Messiah was composed over the course of a month in 1741, six months before its premiere in Dublin at a new concert hall. Even the dress rehearsal was ticketed, and the morning newspapers excitedly reported that the oratorio “far surpasses anything of that nature, which has been performed in this or any other Kingdom.” Nearly 300 years later, Handel’s Messiah still evokes joy, and UMS’s presentation of the oratorio fills audiences with emotion for both the beauty of the piece and the pride of hearing friends and colleagues from the community bring this glorious work to life.

Saturday, December 14, 2019 (8:00 PM) & Sunday, December 15, 2019 (4:00 PM)

Taylor Mac’s Holiday Sauce: “I’m a reminder of things you’ve forgotten, dismissed, or buried,” Taylor Mac said during A 24-Decade History of Popular Music. Mac returns to Ann Arbor with the ultimate holiday survival guide, taking the season head-on and celebrating all of its dysfunction with Holiday Sauce. Joined by longtime collaborators Machine Dazzle and Matt Ray, a spectacular band, and surprise special guests, Mac reframes the songs you love and the holidays you hate, taking aim at Santa’s lap, nativity scenes, consumerism, and more in a dazzling, and at times shocking, take-down of the sentimentality of the holidays.

School of Music, Theater, and Dance (SMTD)

Thursday, December 5 – Sunday, December 8, 2019

The Grapes of Wrath: A sweeping epic of the American experience, adapted by Frank Galati, based on the novel by John Steinbeck, and directed by Gillian Eaton


Matthaei Botanical Gardens

The Matthaei Botanical Gardens is a 350-acre site that offers an indoor plant conservatory and greenhouse, and outdoor sites for research, display gardens, native plant gardens, natural areas and ongoing ecological restoration. Explore the conservatory as well as the holiday exhibition.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Annual Holiday Greens Workshop: Presented by the Ann Arbor Garden Club, Denise Looker will demonstrate how to make a holiday wreath, centerpiece, or fireplace decoration. Bring your own garden clippers. All other materials provided. RSVP: Nancy Hart,

Tuesday, December 10, 2019 (6:00 – 9:00 PM)

A2B2 Fourth Annual Gala: Join Ann Arbor Backyard Beekeepers for a silent auction and mead tasting. Admission to the silent auction is free; mead tasting is $15 for five one-ounce pours. Finish your holiday shopping and check out a carefully curated selection of the best meads available.

Saturday, December 21, 2019 

Christmas Bird Count: The event brings out both advanced, intermediate, and beginning birders, and it is a wonderful occasion for volunteers new to the area, or birding itself, to meet the local birding community and become part of the Ann Arbor area’s extensive birding network.

“SMALL: A Big Look at Little” Holiday Exhibit at Matthaei: The holiday exhibit features small things that make a big difference. From bonsai to terrariums to viewing stones, tiny plants and natural objects recreate the natural world in miniature and conjure new ways of looking at nature. They’ve created narrative terrariums with little scenes inside suggesting a complete world in miniature. Also on display are bonsai trees and viewing stones—naturally occurring rocks or stones that often look like objects or landscapes. The fairies return too, in all their tiny glory. The conservatory will also be decked out with seasonal flowers and evergreen concept trees related to the exhibit theme. Exhibit runs Nov. 30-Jan. 5. 


The Nichols Arboretum—also referred to as “The Arb”—is a 123–acre site near Central Campus that provides a unique opportunity to explore the ongoing interaction of humans and the natural world. The Arb contains specialty gardens, historic and culturally significant collections, areas of native Michigan ecosystems, active areas of ecological restoration and access to the Huron River. Visitors can celebrate the U-M Bicentennial by going on The Grandmother Tree Walk—a self-guided tour of 12 historic trees in The Arb. Maps are available at the Arboretum visitor center, Matthaei Botanical Gardens and online.

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