The Arts Initiatives and Profiles page highlights the people, units, and organizations affiliated with the Ann Arbor campus whose work or mission exemplifies our Summit theme. This does not represent an exhaustive list but rather a sampling of the exciting efforts across campus.

Arts Initiatives


The President’s Arts Initiative is a new initiative at the University of Michigan focused on integrating making and arts methodology is built into the educational experience of all students, promoting new ways of thinking and research through artistic ways of knowing, and encouraging deeper public engagement through the arts. Having just started in 2019, the Arts Initiative is in its startup phase, when it is thinking through the role of the arts on campus, and in the world, and how arts can be a force for inclusivity and meaningful change. The first round of activities, kicking off fall 2020, includes funding of a small set of arts-based research and engagement projects, a new student-driven series that provides a platform for performance, and Future of Art, a series of engagements with artists and art thinkers about special topics related to arts in a rapidly changing world. 

Engagement Opportunities: 

The Arts Initiative is in its startup phase, and actively seeking input about how an arts initiative can be useful and impactful to the university community and beyond. We invite suggestions through a form on our website:

We are looking for topic suggestions for our engagement series the Future of Art, of special interest to UM communities. We want students who want to get involved with our student performance series. And, we are broadly interested in hearing a wide range of ideas about how the arts can take center stage at the university. You can also write directly to




This fall and winter at UMMA, we’re examining whose history we prioritize in our collections and exhibitions while we attempt to reckon with our own past and make meaningful changes for the future.  In this preview of our fall and winter exhibitions, you’ll see a focus on using the Museum’s collections, gallery spaces, and online resources to deeply examine the uncomfortable truths about our past and take steps necessary to undo centuries of systemic racist and colonialist structures that exist at our institution. You’ll also see a focus on contemporary African art, including several recent acquisitions, and a more complex representation of art from the African diaspora. You can explore previews of many of these exhibitions online and discover the many ways you can engage with the Museum, our collections, our educators, and our programs, right from your home.


In the midst of an already challenging moment, the murder of George Floyd and the resulting protests and racial reckoning in our country has had a major impact on the UMS team and in our thinking. Following on the heels of the workshops we did with ArtEquity in November 2019, we are engaging arts consultant and facilitator Justin Laing of Pittsburgh to work with us over the next six months to identify key questions about our organization and to determine tangible action steps and changes to move our organization onto an even stronger path with this work. Becoming an anti-racist organization is a core value for our organization and tied into our institutional goals.

Externally, UMS has long been regarded as a diverse organization, introducing audiences to a variety of artists, art forms, and ideas through music, dance, and theater. In this current pandemic year, we have committed to working with six different artists through Digital Artist Residencies that speak to racial equity, social justice, multiculturalism, and diversity in both obvious and non-obvious ways. The artists featured in our digital residencies include actor Wendell Pierce, choreographer Cleo Parker Robinson, mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, Flint-based musician and activist Tunde Olaniran, Lebanese-American pianist Tarek Yamani with the Spektral Quartet, and performance artists Brian Lobel and Gweneth-Ann Rand. Through the residencies, each will present an anchor project in addition to a series or public and private events designed to extend the anchor project themes to larger groups of students and/or community members and partners throughout the region.

Housed on the U-M campus, the University Musical Society is one of the oldest performing arts presenters in the country, committed to connecting audiences with performing artists from around the world in uncommon and engaging experiences. UMS contributes to a vibrant cultural community by presenting 60-75 performances from around the world each season, representing many diverse cultures and art forms, in addition to over 100 free educational activities. UMS also commissions new work, sponsors artist residencies, and organizes collaborative projects with local, national, and international partners. UMS was selected as one of the 2014 recipients of the National Medal of Arts, the nation’s highest public artistic honor.


Stamps Gallery is part of the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design. We work with artists and designers to create vibrant and inclusive projects and experiences that catalyze and nurture positive social change. Building on the school’s strong tradition of excellence thought leadership and community engagement, our goal is to develop innovative and scholarly exhibitions, publications and public programs that foster inclusive platforms for presentation, discussion and inquiry into the urgent questions and concerns of our time. 

A commitment to social justice shapes our work, developing exhibitions, programs, and publications that inspire new ways of looking, making, and thinking. The Gallery is an expansion of the classrooms and an important resource for students who have the opportunity to work with leading-edge artists, designers, curators, writers as we install exhibitions, develop public programs such as talks, panels, workshops, performances and research publications print and online.  

Every year We present 2-4 student exhibitions and 3 -5 exhibitions with renowned artists and designers working locally, nationally and internationally. Our exhibitions are augmented by a robust suite of public programs that enable us to expand the conversation, critique and research that informs the exhibition. 


Respond/ Resist/ Rethink: A Student Poster & Video Exhibition

Stamps Gallery is an incubator and lab for contemporary artists and designers to explore ideas and projects that catalyze positive social change. As the pandemic grips our nation it has exposed the social, political, and economic disparities that have disproportionately impacted Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. The world witnessed in horror and sadness the meaningless loss of African American lives with George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, among many others that we will never know. National and international outcries brought people together from multiple races, genders, and generations – on social media and in the streets – to publicly demand an end to police brutality, structural racism, and emphasizing that Black Lives Matter. What is the role of a university gallery in this time of crisis?

In this spirit, Stamps Gallery invited the undergraduate and graduate students at Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, to design posters and make videos to respond and contemplate what each of us can do to build a stronger community, one that is based on the values of racial equality, justice and belonging. Through this exhibition Stamps Gallery asks the UM community to come together as artists and audiences and envision models for inclusion that are grounded in equality, belonging and empathy. 

Online Public Events

Virtual Exhibition Tour with Artist Heidi Kumao, Stamps School of Art & Design Professor
Thursday October 1, 2020, 12:15 – 1pm

In conjunction with the exhibition Real and Imagined: Fabric Works and Video Animations by Heidi Kumao on view at Stamps Gallery, join us for a virtual exhibition tour with artist Heidi Kumao as she discusses works in the show, her process and themes. Followed by a live Q&A. The exhibition is inspired, in part, by the courage, testimony, and experiences of women (like Christine Blasey Ford) who publicly report assault, harassment, or misconduct and the hostile backlash sent out against them. Real and Imagined: Fabric Works and Video Animations by Heidi Kumao is on view from September 15 – October 17, 2020. 

Free and open to the public. Check back for Zoom link. 

Respond/ Resist/ Rethink: A Stamps Student Poster & Video Exhibition Panel Discussion 
Moderated by Stamps Alum, Heriberto Palacio
Tuesday October 13, 2020, 12 – 1:30pm 

Join us for a virtual panel discussion with Stamps School of Art & Design students as they discuss their work in Respond/ Resist/ Rethink: A Student Poster & Video Exhibition at Stamps Gallery.  For the exhibition, Stamps students were invited to design posters and make videos to respond and contemplate what each of us can do to build a stronger community, one that is based on the values of racial equality, justice and belonging. Respond/ Resist/ Rethink: A Student Poster & Video Exhibition is on view at Stamps Gallery from September 15 – October 17, 2020. 

Free and open to the public. Check back for Zoom link. 

Sheryl Oring: I Wish to Say: Artist Talk + Public Conversation with Students. Moderated by Srimoyee Mitra
October 27, 4.30pm – 5.30

Part of the Democracy & Debate Theme Semester, artist Sheryl Oring re-staged her iconic project Sheryl Oring: I Wish To Say via zoom with students from U-M & Wayne State. Oring will present an artist talk on the urgency of socially engaged art in our society. This will be followed by a dialogue with 15 student typists from the University of Michigan and Wayne State University who participated in the first virtual edition of I Wish To Say.  

AIGA Get out the Vote: Empowering the Women’s Vote Exhibition Panel Discussion
Thursday October 29, 12 – 1:30pm

Join us for a virtual panel discussion with designers from the AIGA Get out the Vote: Empowering the Women’s Vote Exhibition at Stamps Gallery. Hear about the ideas behind their poster designs, why they believe it is important to vote, and what the 19th amendment means to them.  Followed by a Q&A. At the event receive information about how to register to vote. Panelists will include Stamps School of Art & Design Professors Audrey Bennett and Hannah Smotrich, Michigan State University Professor Kelly Salchow Macarthur and more tba. AIGA Get out the Vote: Empowering the Women’s Vote is on view from September 15 – December 5, 2020.   

This event is free and open to the public. Check back for Zoom link. 



The Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru) advances the full range of arts-integrative research, curricula, programs, and creative practice to acknowledge, articulate, and expand the vital role of higher education in our global society.

As an organization, we value the arts as core to higher education, deep disciplinary knowledge and applied research in the arts, interdisciplinary creativity, durable collaboration, diverse community, and the research university as a driver toward a better world. Visit us at

Registration is open! Join us at a2ru’s annual meeting, Land & Equity, the art and politics of place, starting online October 15. We have registration options from single sessions to the entire conference. Details here. As a partner, U-M students will be eligible for a limited amount of grants toward registration. Contact a2ru for more information.

Submit your arts-integrated project to a2ru Ground Works. We welcome arts-integrated projects that address systemic societal issues such as poverty, anti-black racism, and climate change. Submissions are accepted on a rolling basis.


The Center for World Performance Studies (CWPS) seeks to create intellectual and physical space for the study of performance. Our aim is to advocate for performance as a mode of research and as a means of public engagement, centering on underrepresented, non-Western, and diasporic voices, bodies, and acts. We connect—both locally and globally—students, faculty, artists, thinkers, and scholars in order to educate each other about Performance Studies and to promote interdisciplinary and intersectional insights and research methodologies.

CWPS collaborates within and across LSA, Rackham, and the professional schools and colleges throughout the larger University, through four core programs:

In 2020-2021, Center for World Performance Studies will offer the following virtual programs, including many that interrogate the role of performance in creating social change, performance as community-engaged practice and politics as performance. 

Performing the Moment / Performing the Movement Virtual Series
Performers and scholars are invited to reflect on how performance is being used to respond to the political, social, health and environmental crises that we face in this moment. Each guest will give a 30-minute presentation, and then engage in 30 minutes of Q&A.

  • Performing the Moment / Performing the Movement Blog
    Throughout 2020-2021 we will feature work by students, faculty and alumni on this new blog, focused on the intersection of performance, activism, politics and pandemic.
  • Performance Studies Reading Group
    Highlighting work by faculty and other scholars in the field.
  • Funding for Student Groups
    Student organizations doing virtual events and projects that align with our mission are invited to apply to the Center for World Performance Studies for funding, with awards ranging from $100-$500.

Anyone with interest in participating in any of these programs should email CWPS Program Coordinator Ingrid Racine:




At the intersection of these themes and their related programs and activities lies an imperative to reconnect with our mission as a public institution including living our values for diversity, inclusion, equity and justice. As a global community of scholars, practitioners and people we share a vested interest in creative and free expression of ideas and the inclusion of all voices in our democratic society. In the arts, the ideals of a democracy are at their purest form; the power of creative expression reaching out to impact the hearts and minds of all. We invite you to explore this intersection and add your voice to the conversation.

Visit the Democracy & Debate Theme Semester website for more information on upcoming events and learning opportunities.


Here are some events sponsored by the Democracy & Debate Theme Semester that also relate to our Summit theme, Arts+Social Change: Building An Anti-Racist World Through the Arts. Check here for more on events planned for the semester!

I Wish to Say Collection Events

September 15th – October 17th

Every Tuesday from 4:30 PM – 6:30 PM and Sunday 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM 

Artist and Wayne State art department chair Sheryl Oring is slated to return to the University of Michigan for a month-long performance of “I Wish to Say” from September 15 – October 17, 2020 as part of the university’s Democracy & Debate Theme Semester. In this project, Oring invites the communities from both universities to dictate a message to the next president, typing the notes on vintage typewriters. These interactions will be staged as virtual performances via Zoom every Tuesday from 4.30 pm-6.30 pm and Sunday from 1 pm-3 pm during the project’s run. 

To share your message for the next president sign up here.

Democracy and the Carceral State: a reading and discussion with poet Dwayne Betts

Thursday, October 8 @ 4:00 PM

Penny Stamps Series 

Dismantling the Polarization Industrial Complex: Philippa Hughes

Friday, October 16 @ 8:00 PM

Penny Stamps Series 

My Country is Burning Within Me/ An American Prayer: Nustrat Durrani

Friday, October 30 @  8:00 PM


Of the 150 courses tagged for the Democracy & Debate theme, 10 courses also connect to our Summit theme, Arts+Social Change: Building An Anti-Racist World Through the Arts:

Check here for the full list of courses within the theme semester.



The Institute for the Humanities Gallery, housed inside the Institute for the Humanities in the South Thayer Building, is a vibrant, lively site for the exploration of art, contemporary issues, and social justice. With a history of effectively engaging with campus and community, and of prioritizing art that addresses social inequality and injustice, the gallery’s exhibitions and programs serve as starting points for collaboration and critical inquiry.

In 2019, the institute was awarded a $1.14 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for our High Stakes Art initiative, aimed at extending our already robust art program and making critical engagements with contemporary art urgent for humanities scholars and publics in southeast Michigan, particularly around social issues of concern. The initiative supports extending the reach of exhibitions, a Detroit artist’s residency, and new exhibitions including a public project by an internationally recognized artist, a group summer exhibition, and a series of pop-up exhibitions by local and regional artists.


In-Between the World and Dreams | By Ibrahim Mahama

In this 3-part installation, Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama explores global exchange, commerce, and the troubling histories of colonialism and slavery in the Western world.

At the U-M Museum of Art, massive, quilt-like panels cover 4,452 square feet of the exterior of the building, creating one of the spectacular architectural interventions Mahama is known for. A related installation at the U-M Institute for the Humanities Gallery can be viewed (and heard) from a sidewalk window. There will also be an installation inside the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit. All three installations are curated by Institute for the Humanities Curator Amanda Krugliak.

Mahama’s artistic practice illustrates, as he explains, how art education, art and cultural opportunities “allow for people to find new ways to acquire knowledge, not only of themselves, but their histories and the places and spaces in which they find themselves.”

Enveloping the contours of a museum building or wall, the blankets of jute fibers are meant to contrast with the monumentality of the institutional buildings and spaces they cover, becoming remnants and traces that reference the hands of laborers, the imprints of colonialism and the interference of Britain and the U.S. in Ghanaian history.

The project marks the first outdoor exhibition of Mahama’s work in the United States. It is responsive to the present moment, offering students and the broader community the opportunity to engage with the arts in a public space at a time when gatherings inside buildings and museums are limited.

Oct. 1-23
Large-Scale Public Art Installation, U-M Museum of Art, 525 S. State St., Ann Arbor
Sidewalk Gallery, Institute for the Humanities Gallery, 202 S. Thayer St., Ann Arbor (viewing from the gallery window only)
Oct. 12-Dec. 5
Community Gallery Installation, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, 315 E. Warren Ave., Detroit



Comparative Literature 141 is a First-Year Writing Course that introduces students to performances around campus at the University of Michigan. This year the course will specifically focus on performance and social change.

Instead of attending live performances during Covid-19, students will explore a wide range of performing arts presented online, including music, theater, dance, film, and musical theater.

Scroll down to view course-related highlights, ranging from examples of student writing, new workshop styles, and performances we are watching.

Course Link

Artist Profiles