U-M Allocates $20M to Expand Arts on Campus and Across State

The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor will allocate $20 million over the next five years for its Arts Initiative to expand access with new programs and projects to engage university audiences, bring more artists to campus, and support and amplify the arts across the state and region.
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The Arts Initiative at U-M has received $20 million over the next five years to amplify the arts across the state and region. // Courtesy of the University of Michigan
The Arts Initiative at U-M has received $20 million over the next five years to amplify the arts across the state and region. // Courtesy of the University of Michigan

The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor will allocate $20 million over the next five years for its Arts Initiative to expand access with new programs and projects to engage university audiences, bring more artists to campus, and support and amplify the arts across the state and region.

“We can be sure that through this initiative, we will be increasing imagination, which is fundamental to learning and discovery,” says Santa J. Ono, president of U-M. “Creativity and openness of the arts, coupled with the rigor of the sciences, can provide the inspiration and insights needed to find solutions for the world’s greatest challenges.”

Underscoring U-M’s role in the arts ecosystem of the region, the core goals of the Arts Initiative include:

  • Strengthening the student experience by expanding and integrating the arts in teaching and learning.
  • Activating interdisciplinary discovery and arts research.
  • Broadening and deepening partnerships with communities and the public.
  • Building capacity and sustainability for the arts.

“The U-M Arts Initiative presents an incredible opportunity for us to leverage the transformative power of the arts together with the incredible assets and resources at U-M,” says Christopher Audain, managing director of the Arts Initiative. “Our goal is to support students, staff, faculty and artists in their creative endeavors, to the benefit of the region, and ultimately, to help us envision a better world.”

The initiative was launched in October 2019 with $2 million in funding for a startup phase. A committee began an asset-mapping project to share information about the array of arts programs at the university and art displayed across campus and conducted listening sessions with colleagues across the institution to understand where efforts can most effectively achieve the initiative’s mission.

That planning led to the development of a framework for a five-year growth phase. In the three-year startup phase, the Arts Initiative team has launched new projects and programs, and consulted with arts leaders on gaps and opportunities across campus.

A few key initiatives include:

  • Culture Corps, a cohort of undergraduate students who take a mini-course together and then are placed in paid internships at arts and culture organizations in southeast Michigan. The program exposes students interested in arts and humanities to career pathways, encouraging and supporting them while also supporting an array of southeast Michigan art and culture organizations with a consistent group of paid student interns.
  • Creators on Campus is a collection of projects that will make U-M a major destination for emerging and established artists, which in turn will drive creativity and collaboration across the university. The program will expand existing visiting artist programs and initiate new larger-scale opportunities while supporting efforts to invite more artists for collaboration, research, and community engagement. One project under way is a collaboration with the U-M Museum of Art on a Curator in Residence program with Paul Farber from Monument Lab.
  • Increased Support for Arts Research is an area in which there is incredible demand, interest and a need for support. At a time when financial resources in education are often directed more towards science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs, the Arts Research activities will ensure that the impact and benefits of the arts are present alongside these other areas. Direct support for faculty and student research projects will help attract and retain leading faculty and students, while driving innovation in the arts consistent with the university’s role as a top public research institution. This includes further development funding opportunities such as the pilot projects and grants for arts in the curriculum.

“The university has superb arts resources that generate field-leading discoveries in research and creative practice. We educate, inspire, and entertain students as well as people from across campus and the region,” says Jonathan Massey, dean of Taubman College and co-chair of the Arts Initiative. “Our aim with this initiative is to elevate that work and to increase its impact by connecting those activities to one another and to the work going on in other fields.”