University of Michigan, Destination Ann Arbor, DDA bring interactive mural to town

By Meredith Bruckner - Community News Producer

(Photos: Scott Soderberg. Courtesy: University of Michigan)

ANN ARBOR - Whether you're a U of M student in your cap and gown or a visitor to town, you'll want to take your picture in front of the newest public art piece at Tower Plaza at 555 E. William St.

The interactive maize and blue mural titled "Michigan Wings," by artist Kelsey Montague, was commissioned by the U-M Arts & Culture Initiative, U-M Social, U-M's College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, Destination Ann Arbor and the Downtown Development Authority.

Montague is known for her highly Instagram-able murals that invite public participation.

This piece features a set of larger-than-life wings picturing Ann Arbor and University of Michigan landmarks weaved into the design. Burton Tower, the diag's brass "M", the law quad and a stack of books representing Ann Arbor as one of the most well-read cities in the country and University of Michigan's academic prestige all appear in the piece.

On a small adjacent wall next to her signature wings, Montague added a flying graduation cap, a move sure to make the mural a go-to spot for commencement photos.


Artist Kelsey Montague and an assistant work on the mural (Courtesy: University of Michigan) 

According to Nikki Sunstrum, director of social media at U-M, 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," director of social media at U-M Nikki Sunstrum said in a press release. "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."

The mural was completed April 18 and is part of the Montague's Instagram series #whatliftsyou, which has nearly 100,000 tags.
 
"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," said CEO of Destination Ann Arbor Mary Kerr in a press release. "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."

Executive director of the Ann Arbor DDA, Susan Pollay, said the DDA has been a longtime supporter of murals downtown that add to the vibrant cityscape.
 
"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. The A2DDA was proud to be included in this project," she said.
 
Montague's mural is her first collaboration with a Big 10 university. She's recently completed interactive murals for the Smithsonian Museum, the Boston Marathon and Universal Studios.

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