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UMMA: A Report Card
Impact transforms traditional notions of museum

December, 2009—When it reopened nearly nine months ago amid some of the toughest economic conditions of the last half-century, the University of Michigan Museum of Art was a symbol of perseverance and patronage. Today, the expanded and restored UMMA has also 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,” said Teresa Sullivan, U-M provost. “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 nine-month 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 utterly accessible approach to appreciating the visual arts.

“People from all different backgrounds are coming here to check out what’s happening,” said 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. With the popular and critical success of “The Lens of Impressionism: Photography and Painting Along the Normandy Coast, 1850-1874,” which is on view through Jan. 3, many new visitors from throughout the region have also rediscovered the new UMMA.

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,” said Megan Levad, assistant director of U-M’s MFA program in creative writing. “Being here with other writers and artists creates an atmosphere where collaborations can happen.”

UPCOMING EXHIBITIONS

This winter, four new exhibitions draw connections among a range of visual art and cultures and demonstrate the Museum’s commitment to the diversity of modern and contemporary practice, while at the same time showcasing extraordinary new gifts to the collections:

- Tradition Transformed: Chang Ku-nien, Master Painter of the 20th Century (Jan 23 through Apr 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 (Dec 19 through Mar 14)

- UMMA Projects: Cory Arcangel (Jan 16 through Apr 11)