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Arts Initiative

U-M Student Life Sustainability Announces Artist-in-Residence Dawn Weleski, launching "transgressive learning" café

Jessica Jenks, Phelicia Jozwiak

The University of Michigan Student Life Sustainability Office will host Upstate New York-based multi-disciplinary artist Dawn Weleski as part of the “Noon at Night,” a collaborative project offering radical hospitality through participatory performances, student campus tours, and a community café. This initiative, supported by U-M Student Life Sustainability Cultural Organizers and various on- and off-campus partners, will culminate in a two-day event taking place on April 12-13, 2024.

The “Noon at Night” café will serve as a classroom connected to transgressive learners worldwide, opening each weekend when the clock strikes noon in partner locations. Through participatory performances referencing student-led protests and struggles, attendees can embark on hour-long campus tours retracing significant sites of student organizing and resistance. These tours will culminate at Palmer Commons, where the Noon at Night Café will be nestled, serving a curated menu of archived recipes from UM’s history, corresponding to the movement time periods shared on the tours. Each evening will feature a teach-in showcasing current student-led movement work.

Dawn Weleski is an internationally renowned artist based in New York. Weleski activates and broadcasts the stories of individuals and groups in experimental public performances, where conversation is her process and people her medium. Weleski’s public artwork has earned her international attention, most notably for Conflict Kitchen with Jon Rubin (2010–2017), a Pittsburgh restaurant that only served cuisines from countries with which the United States is in conflict and her multi-city operatic productions on public transit, Bus Stop Opera (2008–2010). 

Weleski’s most recent work, “Refuse Refuse: Radio,” is a speculative fiction radio theater series that dramatizes current and impending climate catastrophe throughout rural New York State. Broadcast from a mutual aid ambulance, Refuse Refuse will record and transmit survival skill workshops and a participatory climate collapse drama and is supported by a 2024 Anonymous Was a Woman Environmental Art Grant, a 2024 New York State Council on the Arts Grant, and the Harpo Foundation. Waleski regularly exhibits and produces public projects around the world, and most recently exhibited at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum 2022-23. Weleski holds a BFA in Visual Art with a concentration in Contextual Practice from Carnegie Mellon University and a MFA in Art Practice from Stanford University.

With funding from the U-M Arts Initiative Projects in Partnership fund and Student Life Sustainability, Weleski and the Noon at Night team will reactivate the defunct Palmer Commons and Kitchen for this two-day gathering (April 12–13, 2024). The café will serve as a living archive of student-led movement work locally and abroad, mocking up a potential future educational lab and community space.

“We are excited to bring Dawn in to work with our Cultural Organizing team, whose work focuses on the strategic use of art and culture to envision and build a better world,” said Alex Bryan, Director of Student Life Sustainability, “Noon at Night builds off of UM’s robust set of opportunities for students to use our campus-as-lab in and outside of the classroom, pushing us to imagine campus not only as a lab, but also as a studio and living archive of student-led advocacy towards a more sustainable and just institution.”

The inaugural core collaborative project team for Noon at Night includes U-M undergraduate students and doctoral candidates across fifteen disciplines, united by the question, “What has your stomach in a knot?” Through workshops and events, they have fostered spaces for wellness, critically assessed diversity and inclusion initiatives, and developed creative strategies for adaptation amidst climate emergencies.

Noon at Night highlights the vibrant history of student protest and faculty action on campus to remind us of both the university’s proud tradition of creating engaged community advocates and its core educational mission to develop the ‘leaders and citizens who will challenge the present and enrich the future’,” notes Mark Clague, Interim Executive Director of the Arts Initiative. “Not only are the arts a vehicle through which unheard voices can rise and shout, but I’m simply excited to eat some great food and meet some great people, all brought together by radical hospitality!”

Noon at Night will continue as an itinerant classroom and cafe through the end of Winter 2024 and is seeking partners to co-host public events in the 2024-25 academic year. Please contact info@noonatnight.org with your interest. 

Visit noonatnight.org or follow @noonatnightcafe for menu, tour registration, teach-in schedule, and more information.

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