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UMMA gets boost

By Ruth Slavin

The University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) has received a grant of $650,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support and expand a comprehensive initiative for collections-based teaching and learning.

The 40-month grant from the Mellon Foundation accomplishes three objectives: (1) to engage and sustain curriculum-based relationships with students, faculty, and staff in a more systematic way;  (2) to expand the range of exhibitions that highlight U-M’s varied collections; and (3) to fund training and support for future scholars, historians and curators in various stages of their careers.

“UMMA is thrilled to have this opportunity to work closely with faculty and students on new projects that connect with the diverse range of innovative scholarship generated by the University of Michigan,” said Joseph Rosa (bottom right photo), director of UMMA. “This significant grant from the Mellon Foundation will further enable UMMA’s effort to transform the traditional notion, purpose, and function of a university-based arts museum.”

Over the past decade, UMMA has produced a number of notable exhibitions and projects stemming from collaborations on campus and around the globe. But until two years ago, the Museum’s facility severely limited its ability to connect fully with the many exciting research initiatives taking place at U-M. The Mellon grant, paired with a new state-of-the-art facility, outstanding collections, and experienced staff, strengthens UMMA’s established role as a leader for object-based teaching and learning and as an incubator for multidisciplinary projects based in the visual arts.

The Mellon grant will support the inauguration of an exhibition series aimed at using the Museum as an inspirational source for faculty to foster academic and scholarly discussions across disciplines. This “Flip Your Field” Series will feature faculty guest curators taking a fresh look at UMMA’s collection—outside their primary field of specialization—to challenge their own thinking as well as that of UMMA’s audiences.

UMMA will also deepen its partnerships with other museums and libraries at the University of Michigan, including The William L. Clements Library, the Museum of Anthropology, the Bentley Historical Library, and the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. Unique exhibitions at UMMA will highlight some of the remarkable objects in these other campus collections, often providing a complementary perspective to UMMA’s own installations.

Beyond its work with faculty and other campus collections, UMMA also will establish new programs for students to deepen their knowledge of museum-related careers through internships, a collections assistant position, and an UMMA-History of Art Mellon Curatorial Fellowship.

Director Joseph Rosa explains, “With the support of the Mellon Foundation, UMMA looks forward to expanding the scope of its exhibitions and programs and broadening the opportunities it offers young scholars to explore, learn, and develop the critical thinking skills and diverse practical experience required for success in today’s world.”

UMMA’s dramatically renovated and expanded facility features the Museum’s near-universal collections, an ambitious schedule of special exhibitions, and a wide range of innovative programs with and for students, as well as for campus and community audiences, including events featuring the visual, performing, film, and literary arts.

“Engagement with the arts broadens the learning experience for students by strengthening their ability to make creative intellectual leaps,” said Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan. “Creativity and innovative thinking are increasingly prized in the 21st century workplace. The arts matter at Michigan, and the Museum of Art has proven itself to be a key leader in this area, both on campus and in the field.”