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University of Michigan Museum of Art Launches Major 06–07 Series on Museums in Contemporary Culture


Inspired by the historic expansion and restoration of the University of Michigan Museum of Art, UMMA has organized seven public dialogues that will explore the museum's role in 21st-century civic and intellectual life. This major series, taking place on seven Sundays from November 2006 through February 2007, is intended to stimulate an ongoing and open discussion with the museum-going public, provoking new visions for the bolder and more dynamic UMMA that is to come.

The seven noted thinkers presented are each known for their passion for museums and their fresh ways of thinking about the place of both museums and of art (and art-making) in contemporary culture. These public programs and related activities are funded by a major grant from the Getty Trust and are presented in cooperation with the University of Michigan's theme year, "The Theory and Practice of Citizenship: From the Local to the Global". (www.lsa.umich.edu/citizenship).

Each dialogue begins at 3 pm and all but one (as noted below) takes place in Rackham Amphitheater, 915 E. Washington, on the UM campus in Ann Arbor.

UMMA Director James Steward will launch the series on November 5, providing through his own remarks a context for the issues that will be raised over the following months.

“We are making a fundamental commitment to sharing our institutional voice, to giving voice to others who are experts of various kinds, and this series embodies that commitment,” said Steward. “I see my role as setting out a number of concerns (not answers) for the project, as challenging our own and my own past practices, and thus as inviting the community's participation, either in single lectures or in the series as a whole.”

On November 19, Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem, will provide an insider's look at curatorial practice and share experiences from her twenty years as one of the museum world's boldest innovators. Ms. Golden's landmark exhibitions, such as Freestyle and Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary Art, changed the way curators think about exhibitions of contemporary art.

Raymond Silverman, Professor of Art History and Director of the University of Michigan's Museum Studies Program, will present the December 3 lecture in Hutchins Hall at the UM Law School (625 S. State St., Ann Arbor). As an Africanist, Dr. Silverman's interest in how African cultures are presented by Western museums is deeply informed by his close work with museums in Ghana and Ethiopia and extensive research into the history of museums in Africa. From this cross-cultural perspective he raises important questions about museums and their constituencies, who has the authority to speak on their behalf, and how museums mediate among the many possible ways of presenting objects from other cultures.

Nicholas Delbanco, Robert Frost Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Michigan and the speaker on December 10, is best known for his mastery of the literary arts, having published twenty volumes of fiction and non-fiction, trained a generation of writers in Michigan's MFA program in creative writing, and edited the writings of John Gardner and Bernard Malamud. As a lifelong observer of museums here and in Europe, Mr. Delbanco has a passionate commitment to the visual arts and has thought deeply about the nature of their value to public culture and private life.

A curator with a particular interest in representing post-colonial Africa to the world, Okwui Enwezor is a true global citizen whose professional commitments span three continents. His remarks on January 7 will touch upon the international nature of today's art world and what that may say about museums and their future. Mr. Enwezor is Dean of Academic Affairs and Senior Vice President at the San Francisco Art Institute, Artistic Director of the Bienal Internacional de Arte Contemporáneo de Sevilla in Spain, curator at the International Center of Photography, and writer, critic, and founding editor of Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art.

Kathy Halbreich, the speaker on January 28, has moved the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis into the 21st century while maintaining its position in the front rank of worldwide contemporary art practice since becoming its Director in 1991. She has been selected by ArtReview, ARTnews, Newsweek, and Vanity Fair magazines as among the most influential people in the arts. As a veteran of two major museum building projects (with architect I.M. Pei at MIT, as well as the Walker's recently completed Herzog & de Meuron-designed addition), Ms. Halbreich understands the transformative impact a museum project can have on its surrounding community.

Concluding the series on February 18 will be Vishakha Desai, since 2005 the president and CEO of the Asia Society, an international educational organization dedicated to strengthening connections between the peoples of Asia and the United States. Previously Director of the Asia Society galleries, she directs the Society's diverse programs in the areas of policy, arts, culture, education, and business. Dr. Desai, who completed her MA and PhD in Asian art history at the University of Michigan, is widely known in the museum field for developing dynamic presentations of contemporary works of Asian and Asian American artists. Her comments will provide a valuable context for considering UMMA's longstanding commitment to the arts of Asia in light of current trends and realities.

The events are free and open to the public. No reservation is required.

UMMA's landmark expansion and restoration project—designed by principal architect Brad Cloepfil and his firm Allied Works Architecture of Portland, Oregon—includes a 53,000 square-foot addition to be named The Maxine and Stuart Frankel and The Frankel Family Wing, in honor of the Bloomfield Hills couple who made a $10 million gift to the project. The Frankel Wing will include new galleries for collections and temporary exhibitions; additional art storage facilities; educational spaces including an auditorium, classrooms, and "object study" classrooms; an expanded art conservation lab; improved visitor amenities; and substantial restoration of its current facility. In 2004, the UMMA project won one of four coveted design awards from the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects.