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Updated 3:00 PM October 12, 2005
 

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Bus links students to arts and cultures

After an eight-hour immersion into Arab-American history, lifestyle and religion, it was close to 10 p.m. when the bus pulled up in front of the U-M Museum of Art. As its cultural explorers began to disembark, some headed in various directions to their cars and a short trip home, while others, U-M undergraduates, lingered on the sidewalk exchanging telephone numbers and e-mail addresses with newly found friends with like interests.
Mark Tucker of the Lloyd Hall Scholars Program introduces Culture Bus participants to a mural his students created near Detroit's Grand River Avenue. The stop at the 4731 art incubator was one of many for students and faculty to observe various art genres and their influence on local communities. (Photo by Lin Jones, U-M Photo Services)

Only the time of day and subject matter makes this Culture Bus trip different from any of the other adventures offered by Arts at Michigan. Designed to introduce undergraduate students to various arts and cultures in communities surrounding the Ann Arbor campus, the Culture Bus offers experiences that ordinarily might not be explored by students on their own or by those without individual transportation. And it's offered at discounted prices affordable for students interested in a diverse educational experience within a social group setting.

"In programming the Culture Bus trips we have moved towards these 'arts immersion' experiences, which provide a rich, unique and alternative opportunity for students to engage with the arts, says Nancy Lautenbach, coordinator of marketing and programs for Arts at Michigan, "My focus is on working closely with students and faculty through the planning process to provide customized experiences that meet the needs of the community and create a connection to the classroom."

Faculty members also use the Culture Bus program as a tool for learning in an out-of-classroom experience. On one occasion, the program provided a tour of "Music in Motortown," in collaboration with Mark Clague, an assistant professor in the School of Music.

"The Culture Bus forged connections—links between in-class ideas and lived experience," Clague says. "Each student had a different favorite moment that made the connection for him. For many, including me, it was joining the gospel choir at New Bethel Baptist Church, where Reverend C.L. Franklin (singer Aretha Franklin's father) was an influential preacher. The warmth of the people at New Bethel did more to break down barriers of class, race and experience than I could have ever accomplished in the classroom."

Other stops on the trip included Steve's Soul Food, Detroit's Orchestra Hall, and Baker's Keyboard Lounge, where members of the tour listened to jazz sets and Clague's students interviewed the musicians onstage. "More than half my class attended this optional event," Clague says.

Culture Bus trips have been to art museums ranging geographically from Toledo to Detroit and Kalamazoo to Chicago. Students have been able to experience performances in concert, theater and dance, including the famed Russian Kirov Ballet.

Maria Cotera, assistant professor of American culture, worked with Lautenbach to construct a Culture Bus itinerary that would enhance her class, Introduction to Latina/o Studies. The students participating in the trip were encouraged to make a Web site El Museo Latino that included highlights, such as the Detroit Mural Project, the Latino Student Resource Guild, the Latino/a Experience in Southwest Detroit, Chicano Art, Southwest Food Culture and Mexican Immigration, Latino Resources in Washtenaw County, Cultura es Orgullo, Orgullo es Exito, and Sports in Latin America/Latinos in Sports.

One Culture Bus participant wrote of his discoveries in Detroit and Mexican Town. "I had no idea that the building of the freeway really divided the communities of Mexicantown in such a drastic way... I think it is so great that these murals, and art in general, can bring together a community and ultimately transform a community in order to better it."

Arts at Michigan exists to integrate arts and culture into the undergraduate experience at U-M by increasing student access to the arts, serving as an informational resource, supporting students' creative talent and arts initiatives, and promoting arts as a tool for learning.

"Time and again, students tell us that their first arts experience occurred when a professor took the class to see a performance, visit an exhibition or tour an historically significant place," says Lisa Herbert, director of Arts at Michigan. "While they're often reluctant to give up a Saturday at the outset, almost every student reports finding more meaning in their course curriculum as a result of these experiences."

To learn more about the Culture Bus, visit: http://www.arts.umich.edu.

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