‘Tis the Season | Arts & Culture

‘Tis the Season

The University of Michigan welcomes one and all to its many museums, gallery exhibitions, and holiday events. Photo by Scott Soderberg.
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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.

Performing Arts

University Musical Society

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:

Handel’s Messiah


Ladies were asked to attend without hoops and gentlemen without swords, to increase the capacity of the hall. The premiere was a triumph; the Dublin Journal proclaimed, “The sublime, the grand, and the tender, adapted to the most elevated, majestic, and moving words, conspired to transport and charm the ravished heart and ear.” Nearly 300 years later, Handel’s Messiah still invokes joy, and UMS’s 139th year of presenting 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. Music director Scott Hanoian conducts the UMS Choral Union and the Ann Arbor Symphony in this annual community tradition.

The Bolshoi Theater, Moscow Live in HD: The Nutcracker


A holiday tradition for the whole family, The Nutcracker sweeps the Bolshoi stage for two hours of enchantment and magic.


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 exhibit.

Beautiful Bugs: The Amazing Insects of Our Global Ecosystems

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2018 10:00 AM – SUNDAY, JANUARY 6, 2019 4:30 PM

There’s more to the forest than meets the eye. Welcome to the land of butterflies, moths, beetles, and other multi-legged creatures that crawl, fly, march, and munch their way through the world’s ecosystems. Each year the Matthaei Botanical Gardens feature a holiday exhibit with a different theme in the conservatory at Matthaei  Botanical Gardens. This annual winter/holiday event also features seasonal flowers, decorated trees, kids activities, holiday items, discounts in the Garden Store for Matthaei-Nichols members, and more. Free. Matthaei will be closed Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. 

Winter Artist Market


Matthaei’s twice-a-year artist markets bring great art and fine crafts from local artists for a one-day show. Shop from a curated assortment of fine artists, featuring a broad array of nature-inspired and garden-centric pieces in many media such as paintings, photography, textiles, jewelry and more. Featured artists: Cathy Bies, Christy Beulah Budnick Nancy Bulkley, Deborah Cherrin, Julie Cohen, Julie Corey, Jason Dobkowski, Danielle Doyle, Mary Eldridge, Kirsten Elling, Rose Giacherio, Penrith Goff, Manana Hart, Angie Hauch, Ed Lipke, Chelsea Lisiecki, Erika Moeglich, Lauren Nalepa, Jessica Nielsen, Dee Overly, Grace Rice, University of Michigan BioArtography

Father Christmas


The annual visit by the real McCoy, Father Christmas. In town for one day only. A great photo opp! Free.

Museums and Galleries

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

Storytime at the Museum


Storytime at the Museum promotes art enjoyment for their youngest patrons. They will read a story in the galleries and include a fun, age-appropriate, hands-on activity related to it. Children ages three to six are invited to join Storytime. Parents must accompany children. Siblings are welcome to join the group. Meet in front of the UMMA Store.

Children’s Corner Ballet


Join RSC in a never before seen production of Debussy’s Children’s Corner! Featuring original choreography by Florence Woo and the fearless leadership of Tal Ben-Atar, RSC brings new life to Debussy’s beloved classic.

The pre-show event will feature students of Skyline High School presenting their projects from a week of Creative Process classes led by RSC members. This event is free and suitable for all ages!

Tristin Lowe: Under the Influence: A Poetic Encounter


University and community poets will meet in the serene and surreal constellation that is Tristin Lowe: Under the Influence and read a selection of poems. The installation, which includes a twelve-and-half-foot-diameter felt facsimile of the moon, creates a feeling of time having stopped, a sensation that is both captivating and strange. Poets will read work that address that feeling and other themes in their work. Talin Tahajian, U-M MFA student and Hopwood Graduate Poetry winner, will curate this event, inviting fellow students and local poets to share their work. Join UMMA for this encounter with unexpected visual and literary art.

SMTD@UMMA Performance: Plausible Fictions // UMMA


Electronic Chamber Music students, led by SMTD professor Michael Gurevich, respond to the speculative truth of the exhibition Proof: The Ryoichi Excavations by creating and performing works which use technology to subvert or transform reality.

Paul Rand: The Designer’s Task

SEPTEMBER 15, 2018 – FEBRUARY 10, 2019
The Jan and David Brandon Family Bridge

Paul Rand was a giant of American design, whose influential career spanned the second half of the twentieth century. His visionary and pithy conceptions of corporate and non-profit brand identities—though often graphically minimal—embody the artist’s complex philosophy, interest in modernist aesthetics, and singular wit. This exhibition features posters, book covers, and packaging designs from Rand’s beginnings as a pro bono designer for arts and culture publications like Direction magazine to his decades of crafting trailblazing corporate design for companies such as IBM. Paul Rand: The Designer’s Task affords viewers the opportunity to explore the genre of graphic design within the context of the art museum and examine how Rand’s intellectual process and impact on visual culture developed over time.

Proof: The Ryoichi Excavations

SEPTEMBER 29, 2018 – FEBRUARY 3, 2019

The story of Japanese archaeologist Ryoichi and evidence of his worldwide excavations are explored by Patrick Nagatani in this series of photographs. Nagatani presents a narrative of Ryoichi’s archeological work, supported by images of excavation sites, unearthed artifacts, and Ryoichi’s own journal pages. According to the photographs, Ryoichi discovered evidence of an automobile culture buried at sites across several continents: Stonehenge, the Grand Canyon, and a necropolis in China. This provocative and playful series compels viewers to reflect on how photographs and institutions, such as museums, shape our knowledge of the past and present.

Tristin Lowe: Under the Influence

OCTOBER 6, 2018 – JANUARY 13, 2019

Tristin Lowe’s Under the Influence is a serene and surreal constellation of three interconnected works: Argonaut II, an oversized reflective door that leads viewers into the installation, Lunacy, a twelve-and-half-foot-diameter facsimile of the moon, and Visither I, a blue neon-light sculpture resembling a nomadic visiting spaceship. Lunacy, the central component of the installation, is constructed of 490 square feet of white felt pieced together by hand and stretched around an inflatable sphere. The surface is branded with craters and other markers that meticulously render the moon’s topography.  The installation creates a visceral feeling of time having stopped, as if the cosmos has magically been paused—a sensation that is both captivating and strange. The unlikely experience of encountering the moon at this scale deepens this bewilderment. Under the Influence is a hypnotic work with a conceptual openness that rebuffs obvious narrative or meaning. In the artist’s own words, “there’s a bit of the supernatural or otherworldly at work.”

Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today

DECEMBER 15, 2018 – APRIL 7, 2018

The internet has changed every aspect of contemporary life—from how we interact with each other to how we work and play. Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today examines the radical impact of internet culture on visual art since the invention of the web in 1989. This exhibition presents more than forty works across a variety of media—painting, performance, photography, sculpture, video, and web-based projects. It features work by some of the most important artists working today, including Judith Barry, Juliana Huxtable, Pierre Huyghe, Josh Kline, Laura Owens, Trevor Paglen, Seth Price, Cindy Sherman, Frances Stark, and Martine Syms.

Organized by the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, the exhibition at UMMA will be accompanied by a wide range of U-M partnerships and public programming.


The Kelsey Museum is open every day but Monday and admission is free. They have 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.

Urban Biographies: Ancient and Modern

AUGUST 24, 2018-JANUARY 6, 2018

Human beings are political animals, said the Greek philosopher Aristotle: animals that live in the “polis,” the Greek word for city. Over two thousand years later, we are still political animals, and the study of ancient cities is of abiding interest, for our perceptions of the urban centers of the past continue to exert a powerful hold on modern culture.

This exhibition showcases three Classical cities where the University of Michigan sponsors field projects: Gabii in Italy, Olynthos in Greece, and Notion in Turkey. The archaeologists excavating these cities, in collaboration with students and faculty from U-M’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, are comparing their findings to projects of urban rebuilding in contemporary Detroit, asking two main questions: How do contemporary archaeological methods facilitate the study of both ancient and modern cities? And how can the study of the past help illuminate the challenges and opportunities facing Detroit today?


Exterior of the U-M Institute for the Humanities.

The gallery at the University of Michigan Institute for the Humanities is a unique meeting place for the exchange and interchange of ideas.  Each exhibition serves as a starting point for collaboration and critical inquiry, bringing new perspectives to the institute and actively engaging the community with the humanities.  In addition to providing a venue for artists to exhibit their work, the gallery now also offers commissioning fellowships each year, providing artists the time and support to create new work while in short term residence.

Gallery hours: M-F 9am-5pm

Gideon Mendel’s “Deluge”

Closing DECEMBER 18, 2018

Deluge is a culmination of Mendel’s ten years of work on the Drowning World project, shooting video and stills in thirteen different countries. It depicts a variety of individual stories, positioned with a synchronous global narrative in a way that is both personally intimate and deeply political. In all his years of responding to floods and making many journeys he has shot a vast archive of video footage, which is fully activated in this presentation for the first time.


The Stamps Gallery is a dynamic space for the entire community to experience the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design’s scholarship, values, and transdisciplinary creative work. As part of the University of Michigan, our exhibitions, publications, and public programs highlight and foster the critical relationship between research and creative practices. We are a non-collecting institution — functioning in the Kunsthalle tradition — committed to deepening the understanding of contemporary art and design practices. We respond to the urgent questions and events of our time, sparking action, inquiry, and conversation.

Open during exhibitions Tuesday – Sunday. Closed Mondays and holidays.
Tue: 11am – 5pm
Wed: 11am – 5pm
Thu: 11am – 7pm
Fri: 11am – 7pm
Sat: 11am – 5pm
Sun: 11am – 5pm

2018 Undergraduate Juried Exhibition Walk through


2018 Undergraduate Juried Exhibition 


A highly anticipated Stamps School tradition, the Undergraduate Juried Exhibition provides an opportunity for the school to support students whose creative work is recognized as exceptional by invited jurors, with thousands of dollars in awards announced at the exhibition reception: Friday, November 30 from 6-8 pm.


Used book sale

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2018, 10:00AM-10:00PM
Hatcher Graduate Library, Gallery (Room 100)

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.

Sinking Cities: Documenting the realities of climate change in cities around the world

NOVEMBER 26, 2018 – FEBRUARY 28, 2019
Hatcher Graduate Library, Clark Library, 2nd Floor

By the end of the century oceans are predicted to rise between .3 and 2.5 meters. This will result in major flooding in coastal cities around the world. The Sinking Cities Project aims to document this inundation through the stories of residents and the changing landscape of their cities. This exhibit provides a platform to begin understanding the effects of rising sea levels along the coasts of Indonesia, Bangladesh, The Netherlands, Italy and the United States.

Written Culture of Christian Egypt: Coptic Manuscripts from the University of Michigan Collection

Hatcher Graduate Library, Audubon Reading Room

The dry climate of the Egyptian desert offers an ideal environment for the preservation of ancient artifacts. As the sands of Egypt has preserved also numerous Coptic manuscripts, the transmission of the literary heritage of Egyptian Christians can be documented quite well from its beginnings in the 4th century CE until its decline in the 12th-13th centuries CE, when it was completely superseded by Arabic. This exhibit aims to show some of the hallmarks of Coptic literature using manuscripts kept in the Special Collections Research Center of the University of Michigan Library. Topics explored include the main Coptic dialects; bilingualism in Egypt; books read by the Egyptian monks; and the works of Shenoute the Great, the most important author of Coptic literature.