Paths to Renewal: Teaching, Leading and Healing through the Arts
This year the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center at the University of Michigan celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary. Director Holly Rider-Milkovich approached UMMA to collaborate in bringing to life the messages of teaching, leading, and healing at the core of SAPAC's mission. The result will be a small online exhibition of works in UMMA's collection-selected by UMMA's student docents- that invites reflection on and conversation about these themes.
"Art can be both inspirational and aspirational through providing positive role models or examples for communities to model, identifying and promoting positive values, and creating shared expectations of what we ask of each other and ourselves when it comes to relationships," said Rider-Milkovich. "I wanted our anniversary to intentionally include opportunities for a different kind of learning that would, optimally, encourage students to reflect on their own histories, and the ideas of others, and bring those reflections to bear in thinking about art in new ways."
Recognizing that visual art (especially non-representational art) can be intimidating and museums can also be places that are not comfortable for some students, one of the significant benefits of diversifying the ways in which we use the collections in a university setting is that we increase the possible avenues for student engagement with art. The collaboration with SAPAC is one of the many ways UMMA strives to bring art to diverse audiences and invite conversations around particular works of art.
Perhaps the most exciting part of this project is the contribution of UMMA's student docents. Students selected works in the collection and wrote short reflections providing some helpful background information and their own thoughts about the piece's significance to teaching, leading, or healing-thus modeling the kind of learning Rider-Milkovich is most interested in encouraging. Pamela Reister, UMMA Curator of Museum Teaching and Learning who leads the docent program, commented, "The SAPAC project allowed students to act as curators in a real-world application. We are thrilled with the creative and personal insights the students produced. The group product is so much richer than a single interpretation." Crista McClain, an undergraduate student pursuing a BA in History with a minor in Museum Studies, selected Roni Horn's Key and Cue no. 1182 (Remembrance has a rear and a front) from UMMA's modern and contemporary collection. She writes, "Just as the work can be approached from different angles, there is no singular path to emotional recovery-healing is a process that happens differently for different people. The idea of remembrance having "a rear and a front" is also meaningful. Memories change with the passage of time and can slowly become less painful."
To see the online exhibition, please visit sapacexhibit.org.