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Cultural Collections

'Tis the Season

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

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:

Joyce DiDonato, mezzo-soprano, & Yannick Nézet-Séguin, piano


Contemporary opera composer Jake Heggie enthused in Gramophone magazine, “The staggering, joyful artistry of Joyce DiDonato reminds us that in any generation there are a few giants…Those who know her repertoire are in awe of her gifts, and those who know nothing of it are instantly engaged.” DiDonato brought the house down with her luminous, 24-carat voice in her UMS debut at the end of the 2016-17 UMS season in Handel’s Ariodante. For her UMS recital debut, she performs Schubert’s Winterreise, a dramatic song cycle of 24 poems, usually sung by a tenor, that journeys through grief to despair.  She is joined for this very special duo recital by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, music director of both the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Metropolitan Opera, who trades in his baton for a piano.

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. On Christmas Eve, Marie’s wooden nutcracker doll magically comes to life and transforms into a prince. Soon joined by her other toys, Marie and her prince embark on a dreamy, unforgettable adventure. The Nutcracker invites audiences of all ages on a magical journey through a world of enchantment, complete with dancing snowflakes and dolls that have come to life, accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s beloved score. A timeless classic featuring some of the Bolshoi’s greatest artists, The Nutcracker remains a treasure not to be missed.

National Theatre, Live in HD: Hot Cat on a Tin Roof


On a steamy night in Mississippi, a Southern family gathers at their cotton plantation to celebrate Big Daddy’s birthday. The scorching heat is almost as oppressive as the lies they tell. Brick and Maggie dance round the secrets and sexual tensions that threaten to destroy their marriage. With the future of the family at stake, which version of the truth is real — and which will win out?


Matthaei Botanical Gardens

U-M’s 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 (Exhibition)


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. See 

Father Christmas


The annual visit by the real McCoy, Father Christmas. In town for one day only. A great photo opp! This event is free and open to the public.

Great Lakes Orchid Judging Holiday Party and Bizarre Bazaar 


Orchid fun with auction of books, plants, and other items. Review of top American Orchid Society awards; lunch provided by judges. Everyone welcome! 1 om:  monthly Great Lakes Judging Center judging. Visitors are welcome to observe. Sponsored by Great Lakes Judging (Orchids). Free.

Museums and Galleries


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.

Check out these events and exhibitions:

UMMA Pop Up: Original Music with Michelle Held


Michelle Held is a singer/songwriter with a distinctively soulful and captivating style. Brett Callwood of LA Weekly wrote, “Held plays a gentle folk with oft scathing lyrics. It’s her voice that adds the X-Factor; that little bit of welcome strange.” Held performs regularly throughout Southeast Michigan with recent national appearances that include Kansas City Folk Festival, Old Quarter Acoustic Cafe and Wheatland Music Festival. Michelle received a Telluride Troubadour honorable mention in 2018.

Paul Rand: The Designer’s Task (Exhibition)

Open until FEBRUARY 10, 2019

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 (Exhibition)

Open until 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 (Exhibition) 

Open until 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.

Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today (Exhibition)

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.


The Kelsey Museum is open every day except for Mondays and admission is free. There are 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 (Exhibition)

Open until 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: Monday–Friday, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Gideon Mendel’s “Deluge” (Exhibition)

Open until 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 

Open until SUNDAY, JANUARY 6

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.


Artist: Gregg Chadwick

One of the first and most comprehensive healthcare arts programs nationwide, Gifts of Art brings the world of art and music to the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS). During times of stress and illness, the arts have the power to nurture and engage. Gifts of Art programs utilize the arts to assist and enhance the healing process, reduce stress, support human dignity and renew the spirit.

Gifts of Art has nine galleries of changing art exhibitions throughout the hospitals, and organizes a weekly, public concert series in music, theatre and dance. Through December, check out photography by Jon Dones, glass art by Herb Babcock, fiber art by Anne L. Rebele, metal sculpture and jewelry by Dennis Nahabetian, and more.

Performance: Holiday Harmonies by Counterpoint


Come enjoy some of your holiday favorites with the local band Counterpoint. Their blended vocal harmonies and refreshing arrangements of seasonal music are a Michigan Medicine tradition. With Debbie Colesa, Deborah McKenzie, and Laurie Williams on vocals, Peter Tchoryk on trumpet and vocals, guitarist Dave Karl, and bass player Daniel McConnell, their full bodied yet easy listening sound is enlivening.



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

Open until FEBRUARY 28, 2019

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. The exhibition is located in the Hatcher Graduate Library, Clark Library, 2nd Floor.

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

Open until SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 17

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. The exhibition is located in the Hatcher Graduate Library, Clark Library, 1st floor (Audubon Room).



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