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University of Michigan’s president announces new campuswide arts initiative

Schlissel: Initiative designed to ‘unleash imagination and creativity’

Dr. Mark Schlissel. (Credit: George Cushingberry)
Dr. Mark Schlissel. (Credit: George Cushingberry)

ANN ARBOR – University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel announced Thursday a new comprehensive arts initiative designed to "unleash imagination and creativity."

The initiative will be created by arts leaders on campus who will collaborate with all parts of the school. Schlissel said the group will produce a road map during a two-year startup phase and will focus on community engagement, particularly with students.

"Our strengths and opportunities are clear -- U-M is a leader in arts research, creation, education and presentation," Schlissel said in a statement. "But there is also a deep desire to help this component of our excellence permeate further across all of U-M.

"As this initiative matures in the years ahead, we will have the opportunity to create new dimensions of U-M's excellence through the arts—ones that are perhaps unknown to us today."

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The initiative will be led by:

  • Tom Baird, U-M vice president for development
  • Liz Barry, U-M special counsel to the president
  • Anne Curzan, dean of the U-M  College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
  • Maryrose Flanigan, executive director of the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities
  • David Gier, dean of the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance
  • Jonathan Massey, dean of the U-M Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning
  • Gunalan Nadarajan, dean of the U-M Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design
  • Christina Olsen, director of the U-M Museum of Art
  • Matthew VanBesien, president of the University Musical Society

During his announcement, Schlissel praised the university's transdisciplinary collaborations, including individuals who are bridging the arts and other disciplines on campus. Examples include Anne Mondro, an associate professor at the U-M Stamps School of Art & Design, who created an arts programs for people living with dementia in the community and faculty members who secured support from the state and the Centers for Disease Control to present a musical about the opioid crisis, called "Painless."

Schlissel said the group will engage the community to gather ideas to shape the initiative and will launch a series of projects.

"This will be a dynamic period of experimenting with new projects," Schlissel said in a statement. "How can we incorporate art and art making into the Michigan experiences of all our students? How can we bring the world's most compelling artists to campus for deep engagement and collaboration with us?

"How can the arts help to open new ways of understanding and solving problems in different disciplines? And yes, how can the arts bring us together around profound questions like 'what is love?'"​​​​​

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