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Architecture and Urban Planning

U-M Arts Initiative seeks project proposals, stakeholder input

By Kent Love-Ramirez and Sydney Hawkins

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 new presidential Arts Initiative at the University of Michigan is seeking proposals from faculty, students and staff for pilot projects that will be funded as part of the launch of a two-year startup phase.

Announced by President Mark Schlissel in October 2019, the Arts Initiative was established by a working group of leaders from the university community who are developing a roadmap for the effort by engaging stakeholders and providing support for projects, performances and other activities.

Pilot project proposals, which are due March 23, will be considered by the working group for funding. Its selections will inform planning for the initiative and encourage creative, inclusive engagement from both the U-M and regional communities.

According to the group, proposals can range from $1,000 to $20,000 and should align with one or more themes: advancing creative collaboration, arts in action, transformative performances, catalyzing capacities and expanding audiences.

The startup phase began in January and is funded by the Office of the President. It prioritizes experimenting with new projects and ideas that explore how to better incorporate art and art making into the student experience, how the arts can bring people together around solving large-scale problems, and how the arts can catalyze discovery and innovation in research and through other types of collaborations.

“The goal of this startup phase is to help the president identify a path forward for a longer, multiyear growth phase where the initiative truly begins to have cross-campus and community impact,” said Jonathan Massey, co-chair of the working group and dean of the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

Since the announcement, the working group has begun a search for a managing director, engaged stakeholders in planning conversations, and launched a new website to share information and accept project ideas.

“The success of the Arts Initiative will rely on the creativity, passion and engagement of U-M and broader community,” said Christina Olsen, co-chair of the working group and director of the U-M Museum of Art. “We need and want ideas from a broad community of stakeholders — faculty, staff, students, alumni and donors — through pilot projects and community-based engagement.”

“We want to test ideas that explore how the arts catalyze discovery to enhance teaching, learning, and research achievements across campus, including in STEM fields,” said Tabbye Chavous, working group member and director of the National Center for Institutional Diversity, and associate vice president for research-social sciences, humanities and the Arts.

“As one of the world’s leading research universities, we are committed to addressing increasingly complex societal challenges, including through the arts.”

Proposals are due March 23, and awards will be announced in April. Students, faculty and staff are also encouraged to join stakeholder engagement events in the coming months, and to share ideas about their hopes for the initiative through a user-friendly form on its website,

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