Ann Arbor has innumerable large- and small-scale murals already, but they have new company as the result of a crowdfunded project to bring art to walls and alleys around town.
In July, the Ann Arbor Art Center (A2AC) raised more than $50,000 to commission 10 murals around the city. The fundraiser was through Patronicity, and once the goal was met, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) matched the donations to double the money available to the mural artists. At the onset of the project, 10 artists paired with local business owners on the sites of their future murals. In October, two additional murals were announced, raising the total to 12. This initiative is part of the ongoing A2AC Art in Public program that aims to make art “accessible and equitable to everyone,” relying on community-based donations.
Since the Art Center helped crowdfund two other public murals in the recent past, those have been added to the A2AC Murals Map, which features a walking tour of all the works. Currently, 13 murals are finished, with the 14th debuting sometime in 2021.
Here's a rundown of all A2AC's mural commissions, starting with the two that were preludes to the larger project.
Normally, you might come into the library, talk to someone on staff, get some recommendations, perhaps share a few of your own, and we'd go on our merry ways, content we could engage in a positive social interaction while discussing whatever book, movie, TV show, music, or more that came up.
Art is life and life is people.
But we've not seen most of you since March 13, the last time the Ann Arbor District Library was fully open to the public—and to the staff. While many AADL staffers have returned to the buildings to do important behind-the-scenes work since the summer, many others have been working from home since the closure. And we miss being able to share what we're currently loving not just with patrons but also with each other.
So, to staffers and patrons alike, these are the movies, TV shows, music, books, and more that helped the AADL crew get through 2020.
Raqs Media Collective's "The Pandemic Circle" explores how artists share and create during quarantine
On December 1, Raqs Media Collective premiered two new videos as part of an ongoing project titled The Pandemic Circle. This three-part series, curated by STAMPS Gallery’s Srimoyee Mitra, was commissioned by the University of Michigan Stamps Gallery and the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design as part of EXPO CHICAGO’s online adaptation of its previously in-person discussions and events series. The focus this time is on ways in which those working within the arts are changing and adapting their practices to continue making and sharing art amid the pandemic.
The virtual exhibition includes three short films that explore themes of time, space, and routine, and, more. As described on the exhibition page, the works “grapple with the pervasive and dispersed impact on daily routines and relationships with one another, and beyond, in the age of the Coronavirus." The two new videos are paired with 31 Days, created earlier this summer, three months after the pandemic ushered in sweeping quarantines across the globe and changing the flow of daily life. The follow-up films expand upon the members of the Collective’s response to these changes, broader cultural events, and their own worlds.
Objects of Veneration: "Sacred Hands" and other online exhibits at the University of Michigan Library
The introduction to Sacred Hands, a new online exhibit by the University of Michigan Library featuring ancient manuscripts for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, sums up why objects of veneration such as these are important even if none of those religions apply to you:
It seems appropriate to use the term "sacred" to describe the hands that copied the manuscripts containing the texts of the three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. However, the meaning of this word transcends the conventional limits of the religious sphere. "Sacred" can also designate what is unique, exclusive, and venerable.
Additionally, so much of our current social and philosophical climate is generated from these old texts that it's impossible to understand the present without studying the past.
Map of the Interior: Sarah Rose Sharp’s "Results or Roses" at U-M Institute of the Humanities Gallery
During these Covid times, visual artists’ exhibitions have migrated to online locations, with mixed results. For some whose work is photographic or text-based in nature, the effect is hardly noticeable. But for artists making very tactile or three-dimensional work, like the artworks in Detroit artist Sarah Rose Sharp’s Results or Roses at U-M Institute of the Humanities Gallery, much is lost in translation. I felt some guilty delight when the gallery curator, Amanda Krugliak, consented to open the gallery (now temporarily closed to the public during the pandemic) for my visit, but you can still view the exhibit online.
Sharp employs traditional needlework and sewing techniques to create a diaristic map of her interior life. The intimately scaled artworks illustrate several different trains of the artist’s thought and share the walls of the gallery and an adjacent vitrine, providing a virtual tour of the artist’s memories, observations, and preoccupations. The overarching intention of the work seems to be located somewhere in the psychic territory between nostalgia and satire.
Two new exhibits organized by U-M's Institute for the Humanities Gallery don't share much in common other than Sydney G. James and Sarah Rose Sharp are both artists from Detroit. James is a painter and a muralist; Sharp makes fiber-based works.
But when I read James' artist statement, I realized that even though she and Sharp don't share similarities artistically, they both have the need to work through this pandemic, to continue to create in the face of daily challenges that are determined to knock us on our asses. We're all facing this, artist or not. As James writes:
About a month ago, Shang, the giant metal sculpture by Mark di Suvero, was removed from the entrance area of the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA). It was deinstalled after a 12-year run at UMMA because a private collector bought the on-loan sculpture.
But collectors also giveth, not just taketh away, and J. Ira and Nicki Harris have giventh a sculptureth to UMMAeth to replaceeth Shang.
Visual Arts Roundup: Catching up with UMMA, Stamps Gallery, Michigan Art Gallery, WSG Gallery, Ann Arbor Art Center, Gutman Gallery, Eat More Tea, Ann Arbor Women Artists, and Riverside Arts Center
For 12 years, going through UMMA's front entrance was the second thing you did when you arrived at the museum. The first thing was to swing on Shang, the giant metal sculpture by Mark di Suvero. But a private collector bought the piece and it was deinstalled in early October. UMMA is encouraging folks to share photos of themselves on the swing with the hashtag #GoodbyeShang. Click here to read a great letter from an anonymous visitor who left a laminated letter attached to Shang with magnets; let's hope your experience on the swing has half as revelatory as it was for this fan.
WSG Gallery's transformation from a Main Street attraction to an online art house continues apace—with some timely dips into physical spaces, too.
The collective created a small pop-up gallery at 401 N. Ann Arbor St. in Saline (Sept. 25- Oct. 2), which was a warm-up to taking over the second floor of the Ann Arbor Art Center from Oct. 6- Dec. 31. This a multi-artist show and the featured works will rotate at Thanksgiving.
But WSG's two most recent virtual exhibitions focus on single artists.
Painter Sara Adlerstein's Not for Sale: My Private Collection exhibition officially ran Aug. 18 to Sept. 28, but WSG is doing the smart thing and keeping all its virtual exhibitions online permanently. The current exhibition is sculptor Francesc Burgos' Recent Work (Sept. 29 to Nov. 7).
Like a lot of museums, the University of Michigan Museum of Art shifted exhibitions online as it became evident the pandemic would be dragging on for the foreseeable future. But versions of both exhibits UMMA posted had already been produced for its galleries: Take Your Pick: Collecting Found Photographs, which ran in Fall 2019 (Pulp review), and Cullen Washington Jr.'s The Public Square, which ran from January 25, 2020, to March 13 when all of Michigan shut down.
And because the coronavirus crisis looks to drag on ad infinitum thanks to the federal government's gross abdication of responsibility, UMMA just moved ahead and produced its fall exhibitions with both online and in-person versions in mind. While there are no in-person opening dates for the three exhibits -- UMMA is working on some kind of staggered, socially distanced protocol that it will announce later -- you can check out all of them right now at umma.umich.edu.
The three exhibits: