When it reopened nine months ago amid some of the toughest economic conditions of the last half-century, the U-M Museum of Art was a symbol of perseverance and patronage.
Today, the expanded and restored UMMA also has become a symbol of how higher education and the arts are influencing and transforming each other in the multi-disciplinary convergence known as the digital age.
“Art is an important part of the teaching mission of the university, not just in understanding art history, but in understanding ourselves and our culture,” says Provost Teresa Sullivan. “In many ways, the new art museum is a reflection of how we are fostering interrelatedness among the disciplines.”
Since UMMA reopened in March, more than 185,000 visitors have strolled through the transformed museum that more than doubled in size. But the best qualitative measure of the museum’s successful impact has been in recasting the role of the arts and arts education on U-M’s campus.
Among the steady stream of visitors are a diverse range of students, faculty and members of the general public, attracted to the museum’s hip, lively 21st-century atmosphere with an accessible approach to appreciating the visual arts.
“People from all different backgrounds are coming here to check out what’s happening,” says Philip Smith, UMMA student advisory board member. “It’s really become a meeting place.”
On a typical day, students can be found strolling through galleries, studying in a quiet museum cove, and meeting friends in the first-floor commons with glass walls open to campus.
In addition to being a major exhibition venue for the visual arts, UMMA has established itself as a prominent site for the performing and literary arts, and one of the only university museums to integrate scholarship across global traditions.
The new museum has increased collections and exhibition galleries, and added open storage galleries, object study classrooms and an auditorium that is home to major film, lecture and writers’ series.
“UMMA has quickly become a home for the arts on campus,” says Megan Levad, assistant director of U-M’s Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing. “Being here with other writers and artists creates an atmosphere where collaborations can happen.”
This winter, the museum features four new exhibitions:
• Tradition Transformed: Chang Ku-nien, Master Painter of the 20th Century (Jan. 23 through April 18)
• An Economy of Means: The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection (Jan. 30 through May 2)
• The Eye of the Beholder: European Drawings and Prints from the Pulgram-McSparran Collection (through March 14)
• UMMA Projects: Cory Arcangel (Jan. 16 through April 11)
Anna Ercoli Schnitzer, on her greatest passion: “Working to improve the physical and virtual accessibility to all of our community, regardless of individual physical or mental challenges.”