Arts Initiative receiving $20M to boost campus, regional efforts


The University of Michigan will allocate $20 million over 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,” President Santa J. Ono said. “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.”


Ono said that connecting the arts to the campus and community more deeply than ever before will open new discoveries and create new possibilities.

The Arts Initiative is a universitywide endeavor to make the arts central to U-M’s identity and mission. It seeks to illuminate and expand human connections, inspire collaborative creativity, and build a more just and equitable world through the arts.

Underscoring U-M’s role in the arts ecosystem of the region, the initiative’s core goals 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 ” said Managing Director Christopher Audain. “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 for a startup phase. A committee began an asset-mapping project to share information about the array of art and arts programs at the university. It 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 programs include:

• Culture Corps is 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 — both on campus and across the country. At a time when financial resources in education are often directed more toward science, technology, engineering and math 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,” said Jonathan Massey, dean of the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning 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.”

Christina Olsen, director of UMMA and Arts Initiative co-chair, said, “Our ambitious goal is to make the arts stronger, more cohesive and more visible, thereby transforming their role at the university and benefitting the lives of students and the entire community for years to come.”


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