April 19, 2018
Just in time for the University of Michigan's 2018 Spring Commencement on April 28, a new interactive maize and blue mural has been added to downtown Ann Arbor's vibrant cityscape.
Created by Kelsey Montague, an artist known internationally for her murals that invite audience participation and irresistible Instagram photo opportunities, a set of larger-than-life wings containing well-known Ann Arbor and U-M landmarks has been completed on a wall at the corner of East William and Maynard streets at Tower Plaza.
The mural features U-M's Burton Tower, the Law Quad, the brass "M" on the Diag, a stack of books representing academic prestige at U-M and its location in one of the "most well-read cities in America," and a subtle nod to Michigan football helmets' iconic wing design.
In addition to her signature wings, Montague included a graduation cap on a small adjacent wall. The special addition not only allows the Class of 2018 to create a unique celebratory photo, it provides an opportunity for a nostalgic alum or an aspiring student to engage with the art.
From left, Kelsey Montague and Courtney Montague paint the mural on a wall of Tower Plaza at the corner of East William and Maynard streets. (Photo by Daryl Marshke, Michigan Photography)
The mural was commissioned by U-M Social and the U-M Arts & Culture Initiative within the Office of the Vice President for Communications, in partnership with LSA, Destination Ann Arbor and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority.
According to Nikki Sunstrum, director of social media, Montague's work was selected as part of a yearly project spearheaded by U-M Social that coincides with commencement.
"Each year, we seek to identify opportunities that demonstrate the impact of social communications on our community and celebrate the connectivity that it creates both online and in person," she said. "Not only does Kelsey's work exist at the intersection of public art and social media, her work inspires positive messaging and engagement, which is integral to our social strategy and efforts to elevate the tone and culture of online environments universally."
U-M Social intern Peter Shultz poses for a whimsical graduation photo with elements of the new mural. (Photo by Scott C. Soderberg, Michigan Photography)
The "Michigan Wings," which were completed Wednesday, are also part of the Denver-based artist's #whatliftsyou series, which has nearly 100,000 tags on Instagram.
Mary Kerr, president and CEO of Destination Ann Arbor, said she believes the mural will become a fun destination for Ann Arbor area visitors and Wolverine fans.
"From quirky murals to larger-than-life sculptures, and from progressive galleries to our renowned University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor is known as a hub for creativity and artistic expression," she said.
"We're delighted that internationally recognized Kelsey Montague's newest mural is right here in our downtown area, and that the University of Michigan is facilitating another groundbreaking partnership with an influential artist. We couldn't be more proud to partner with the university on this project."
"In support of our goal to make downtown more walkable and interesting, the Ann Arbor DDA has supported a number of signature murals in downtown, said Susan Pollay, executive director of the Ann Arbor DDA. "The A2DDA was proud to be included in this project."
Montague has recently created interactive murals for the Boston Marathon, the Smithsonian Museum and Universal Studios. Her Ann Arbor mural marks her only collaboration with a Big Ten university.