Key initiatives: Arts and creativity


Our understanding of the works of William Shakespeare, the Gershwin brothers, Orson Welles and Robert Altman was advanced at U-M under President Mary Sue Coleman’s watch, along with prominent arts-related initiatives.

Projects ranged from a $41.9 million renovation and expansion of the U-M Museum of Art to the planned $24.32 million renovation and expansion of the Earl V. Moore Building on North Campus, home to core music programs and School of Music, Theatre & Dance administration.

Among the arts initiatives undertaken during Mary Sue Coleman’s presidency was making U-M home to the world’s most extensive Orson Welles archive. (Photo courtesy of the U-M Special Collections Library)

The Moore renovation was celebrated in a groundbreaking event Coleman attended with university leaders in February.

“President Coleman’s leadership has allowed Michigan to distinguish itself as a top research university that is unique in its embrace of the arts,” says Christopher Kendall, dean of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance. “It has been an exciting time to be a part of this great institution and all of us involved in the arts are so grateful to President Coleman for her vision and support.”

The UMMA expansion and renovation project completed in 2008 included a new 53,000-square-feet addition, the Maxine and Stuart Frankel and the Frankel Family Wing named after the lead benefactors, and the restoration of the museum’s original 1910 Beaux-Arts building. The transformation more than doubled the space available for collections display, public programs and educational exploration.

The university’s collaboration with England’s Royal Shakespeare Company was formed initially in 2001 and grew during Coleman’s time as president. Through 2012 there have been several extended residencies, including workshops and the scholarship to reconstruct lost portions of the play “Cardinio.”

During Coleman’s tenure, U-M also became home to the world’s most extensive Orson Welles archive. In 2013, the university celebrated the opening of the Robert Altman collection at the University Library, acquired the archive of filmmaker John Sayles, and forged a long-term partnership with the George and Ira Gershwin families to develop the first official critical edition of their work. This partnership also will bring the Gershwins’ music to students, scholars, performers and audiences.

Coleman’s support made the unique Arts Engine project possible, spawning the university’s first living-learning environment that draws students from the arts and engineering to live together and explore the creative process.

Major gifts supporting the creative arts included the Stamps family foundation’s $32.5 million gift to support the art and design school, renamed in 2012 as the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design. This support was boosted by a $7.5 million match from the university.

In 2013, philanthropist and alumna Helen Zell donated $50 million through the Zell Family Foundation. The gift permanently funds the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program.


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