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UMMA awarded prestigious NEH Grant

By Sydney Hawkins

Pamela Reister, UMMA’s Curator for Museum Teaching and Learning, discusses Charles Ferdinand Wimar’s work, The Attack on an Emigrant Train, during a recent tour with U-M students.

Ann Arbor, MI – The University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) has received a Challenge Grant of $500,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to support Dynamic Humanities Connections—an initiative that will transform the Museum’s significant onsite achievements in humanities programming into a sustained, consistent effort that impacts UMMA’s visitors and users around the world. The UMMA grant is one of only nine Challenge Grants of this size offered nationwide to non-profit, humanities-related organizations.

Dynamic Humanities Connections funding will partially endow key UMMA education team positions and their work to further diversify the voices involved in content production; extend the lifespan and relevance of programming; and create a digital platform to enable students, teachers, and visitors to become active participants in humanities learning.

“The NEH grant will allow UMMA to engage with multiple humanistic disciplines to deepen understanding of cultural diversity, tradition, and creativity,” Museum Director Joseph Rosa explains. “It will further UMMA’s connections with contemporary questions and bring the next generation of scholars and patrons into the Museum—both onsite and via new technology-based interpretive tools that offer visitors richer and more varied experiences.”

UMMA currently serves 200,000 visitors on site each year as well as a global audience of hundreds of thousands of people via its website, social media, exhibition tours, and publications. Museum staff collaborate with internationally renowned faculty at the University of Michigan to create programs that position works of art within multiple contexts—those of history, philosophy, world languages, literature, and more—to engage K-12 students and teachers, university students, public audiences, and other arts institutions around the globe in fruitful exploration and exchange in both formal and informal learning environments.

While UMMA has achieved significant success in creating provocative humanities-based experiences around its exhibitions and collections, it recognized the need to secure permanent funding for its key educational positions and to increase public access to its programs. Digital productions will extend the life of collaborative projects—which often involve extensive labor for research, writing, testing, and production—and foster long-term interaction among constituents.

UMMA will regularly develop and share online such materials as:

  • Interpretations and creative materials related to UMMA’s activities, created by Museum staff, U-M professors, artists, teachers, students, and other audiences.
  • Web-based tools—such as images, narratives, and multidisciplinary discussion guides for K-12 and U-M instructors—that connect with defined K-12 curriculum standards at the state and national levels.
  • Multimedia programs, including lectures and related resources, which shift the focus of UMMA’s online engagement from static marketing to active learning for all audiences.

Tools will be created with particular consideration of future use, focusing on topics and ideas with broad and lasting humanities value.

“We are thrilled that the NEH has selected the University of Michigan Museum of Art to receive this important Challenge Grant, ” University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman notes. “UMMA’s programming leverages the University of Michigan’s wide-ranging strengths and institutional commitment to innovative education and public engagement. The experiences that U-M students and constituents have with the humanities—whether part of a formal course of study or in more casual encounters—significantly shape who they are as workers, leaders, community members, and citizens of the world. As such, UMMA considers its role in providing a rich humanities experience to be an essential contribution to the liberal arts education of U-M students and to the greater good of society.”

Support for the NEH Challenge, which requires a three-to-one match from non-federal sources, is being sought as part of UMMA’s role in the University of Michigan’s recently launched Victors for Michigan campaign. UMMA’s key campaign goal is to secure a steady stream of endowment income to provide stable, continuous funding that will allow UMMA to forever be a place where heritage meets innovation, where creativity is leveraged and young minds are enriched, where diverse voices are engaged, and where the community comes together in celebration of art, culture, and excellence.

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