You Are Invited: UMMA's "You Are Here" exhibit welcomes visitors back to the museum with works that help viewers experience the space
In March 2020, the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) was closed to the public along with countless other businesses and organizations after the announcement of a global pandemic caused by COVID-19. During that time, we were offered virtual exhibits at UMMA; then, in June 2021, in-person exhibits resumed followed by the October 2021 reopening of the museum’s classic Jonathan and Lizzie Tisch Apse, revitalized with bright, vibrant walls and artworks that interact with visitors’ senses.
UMMA’s first exhibit in the remodeled Tisch Apse is You Are Here. Curator Jennifer M. Friess writes about the joys of our renewed ability to come together in person, but she also notes that we still carry the past two and a half years with us: “While it is exciting to be together again and to see the world slowly reopen, we are also deeply impacted by what we’ve been through. This exhibition holds both of those feelings.”
Even works that have been in the space for decades seem imbued with new life.
AADL's new exhibit, "Capturing an Era: The Progressive Lens of Doug Fulton," showcases nearly 30 years of pictures and prose by The Ann Arbor News staffer
Before social media became the defacto visual archives of our times, newspapers employed a full complement of photographs to capture breaking news and everyday occurrences. It was through their lenses that history was recorded, from the significant to the mundane, with the photographers mixing a fine artist's attention to framing and detail along with a documentarian's eye and mentality toward preserving a fleeting moment for eternity.
Doug Fulton worked as a photographer and writer for The Ann Arbor News from 1954 to 1983. While he was a prolific photographic chronicler of our community—from Chrismas cookie making, neighborhood parades, and blues and rock concerts to structure fires, winter storms, and University of Michigan sporting events—he's also remembered for his column covering Michigan nature, parks, hunting, fishing, and the environment, which he illustrated with his photos.
The Ann Arbor District Library is the home for The Ann Arbor News' archives, and the Old News team at AADL culled through thousands of images to curate a new exhibit:
Capturing an Era: The Progressive Lens of Doug Fulton.
The exhibition is displayed on the second floor of AADL's downtown location from June 10 to September 5, and it features numerous Fulton photos and articles from throughout his 29-year-career at The Ann Arbor News. Additionally, two walls in the exhibit feature blues and nature photos provided to the library by Fulton's daughter Andrea and son Bruce.
You can read more about the exhibit and Fulton's life here, and you can browse all the photos in AADL's Old News archives here.
Then come back to Pulp and read my interview below with Andrea Fulton-Higgins about her father's background, how he came to learn photography in the Air Force, and his love of music and nature.
"Last Night a Camera Saved My Life: The Photography of Doug Coombe" celebrates one of Washtenaw County's finest chroniclers of Michigan music
If you've been to a concert in Washtenaw County in the past 30 years, there's a good chance Doug Coombe was at one of them.
From Ypsilanti basement shows to Hill Auditorium and everywhere around Southeastern Michigan, the long-time Ann Arbor record-store clerk turned first-call photographer has documented local and touring artists of all genres with an exacting eye and an unrelenting passion for music.
The genial Coombe's dynamic concert photos are like energy traps, capturing the exact moment a performer has exploded with passion, while his promotional and journalistic musician photos present bands in creative environments that convey their sounds and attitudes through the images.
Coombe loves what he does and the musicians love him right back. You can actually tell the artists like to be photographed by Coombe just by looking at his pictures.
For real: Everybody likes Doug.
CultureVerse is a new-ish gallery space in downtown Ann Arbor and its latest exhibit, Last Night a Camera Saved My Life: The Photography of Doug Coombe, is a love letter not only to the Washtenaw County and Southeast Michigan music scenes but also to the man who captured these small, fleeting moments for all of eternity.
The Share Zone: Ann Arbor Art Center launches multimedia exhibit "Sharing Space," the first show in its new building
What is space?
Is it the physical area around you?
Is it your mental perceptions of isolation versus intimacy, distance versus closeness? Finding your place in a crowd versus being alone with your thoughts?
Is space the place where we should launch Elon Musk on a Major Tom-like mission to Mars?
The artists in Sharing Space, a new multimedia exhibit at the Ann Arbor Art Gallery (A2AC), ask variations of these questions—except the one about an Elonaut floating around a tin can, that's all on me.
Sharing Space is A2AC's inaugural full exhibit in its newly increased footprint, which came about because the venerable institution bought and expanded into the building next door, reconfiguring nearly everything throughout the three floors of both structures. (MLive did a nice story on the renovation.)
The name Sharing Space is also a nod to a driving idea behind A2AC's newly configured galleries and workspaces. While A2AC has always been about sharing space with the community—the exhibits are free; the paid art classes welcoming to newcomers—its commitment to expanding deeper into the general public is front and center now.
The pandemic has also made us reconsider how and when we share spaces with others. Even though covid variants are still raging everywhere, the world has made the conscious decision to open up again, which means whether or not we're emotionally or physically ready, we have to figure out how to share spaces once again.
"I wanted our first exhibition to be something that spoke to our own process of coming back into the public emerging with our new space," said Interim Gallery Director Ashley Miller.
Tracey Snelling's "How to Build a Disaster Proof House" constructions contemplate displacement and disenfranchisement
A vibrant installation at LSA’s Institute for the Humanities Gallery asks viewers to contemplate the utility (or lack thereof) of building a “disaster proof house.”
Tracey Snelling, the current Roman Witt Artist in Residence at the gallery, returns to LSA after previously exhibiting Here and There in 2017, which addressed “challenges of economic inequities, racial biases, and imposed class divisions that often limit the options available to so many people.” Her new exhibit, How to Build a Disaster Proof House, curated by LSA's Amanda Krugliak, “contemplates the uncertainty, displacement, and disenfranchisement that frames the present day” and asks, “How do we find a safe place, protected from bad weather and circumstance, in an era of floods, fires, violence, abuse and pandemics?”
Ann Arbor's Creal Microgallery offers tiny exhibitions for unsuspecting pedestrians
The first reaction a pedestrian might have upon encountering the Creal Microgallery in suburban Ann Arbor might be amusement. This tiny, breadbox-sized art space on Creal Crescent, not far from the North Maple Road and Miller Avenue intersection, resembles one of those little free libraries often found on residential streets. It provides curbside delivery of fine art to passers-by from dawn to 11 pm daily. This may not be a grand structure like the elegant Stettheimer dollhouse in the Museum of the City of New York, with its tiny masterpieces by Alexander Archipenko, Gaston Lachaise, and Marcel Duchamp, but it’s no joke either.
The microgallery’s founder and curator, Joe Levickas, was inspired to start the project by dislocations in his life during the COVID-19 pandemic. He describes bringing up his idea for the gallery with his wife. “What if we put up a gallery in our front yard?” A real team player, she replied, “You should totally do it.” He acquired a 16”x10”x12” box with a glass front, painted it robin’s egg blue to match his house, and the rest is (art) history.
Mary Sibande's "Sophie/Elsie" sculpture anchors UMMA's African art gallery
Sophie/Elsie is a striking sculptural figure, vibrant and visible from a distance, a colorful, bright beacon in the newly expanded and reopened African galleries at the University of Michigan Museum of Art.
Johannesburg-based artist Mary Sibande’s fiberglass sculpture, created in 2009, and initially on display during UMMA’s closure, is now permanently installed. In the early days of the museum’s closure, Sophie/Elsie was visible from outside the galleries—then, construction came, and she was no longer visible from outside.
But Sophie/Elsie is once again on display in the reimagined space of UMMA’s African galleries. Along with works by Jon Onye Lockard, Shani Peters, Jacob Lawrence, and many more, Sibande’s sculpture brings new life to the gallery space as part of the ongoing initiative We Write to You About Africa, in which “contemporary African artists, scholars, and curators will be asked to write about their work on postcards, in their first language, and mail them to UMMA where they will be displayed alongside their works.”
The reinstallation—including a gallery extension—is now open to visitors in the Robert and Lillian Montalto Bohlen Gallery of African art and Alfred A Taubman Gallery II.
AADL 2021 Staff Picks: Homepage
This is the fifth year we've compiled Ann Arbor District Library staff picks, featuring tons of recommendations for books, films, TV shows, video games, websites, apps, and more.
The picks are always an epic compilation of good taste, and last year's post was more than 35,000 words—incinerating phone data plans and overheating computers as the massive page loaded.
In a sincere effort to keep your electronics from catching fire, we've split up the hundreds of selections into four categories:
➥ AADL 2021 Staff Picks: Words
➥ AADL 2021 Staff Picks: Screens
➥ AADL 2021 Staff Picks: Audio
➥ AADL 2021 Staff Picks: Pulp Life
And since we've saved your phones and laptops from the flames, tell us what you enjoyed this past year in the comments section below—doesn't need to be something that came out in 2021, just some kind of art, culture, or entertainment that you experienced over the prior 12 months.
Ann Arbor Gallery Crawl: Catching up with recent exhibits and new art spaces
Double Goddess: A Sighting in the Abyss by Ayana V. Jackson at A2AC Gallery. Photo by K.A. Letts.
COVID-19 has wrecked plans and canceled events for nearly two years (and counting). It has sabotaged the momentum and slashed the incomes of Ann Arbor’s small community of visual artists and galleries, leaving a cultural landscape greatly altered in ways large and small.
But the creatives here are nothing if not resourceful and, well, creative.
My recent tour of the art spaces and non-profits in Ann Arbor and environs left me encouraged—and impressed—by the resilience of the city’s art community. Here are some of the changes I came across while reintroducing myself to the local art scene in early December 2021:
Stamps Gallery's "Envision: The Michigan Artist Initiative" celebrates creators who are inspiring the next generation
Based on my direction of approach to the University of Michigan's Stamps Gallery, I didn’t see Michael Dixon’s large-scale sculptural alligator head with one sharp, gold tooth before entering—though it's visible in the gallery’s large front windows.
Inside the sculpture’s large open jaw, children’s toys rest as if inside a toy box. Among them, a selection of brightly colored balls, dolls, and books we might recognize from a modern store, but also amidst the display are racist toys such as a mammy doll, which remind viewers that these harmful toys are still collected and sold, holding a space in contemporary American culture that often escapes criticism.
This idea is further enforced by the inclusion of problematic Dr. Suess books, which became a topic of national conversation this past March.
Dixon is among five artists represented in Envision: The Michigan Artist Initiative, a new program focused on promoting the careers of Michigan-based artists.
This awards initiative “recognizes the creativity, rigor, and innovation of Michigan-based artists and collaboratives—and honors their role in inspiring the next generations of artists in our state.”