UMMA’s 2022-27 Strategic Plan
Leading Real Change in Museums, Rooted In Equity, Collaboration, and Care
Mission & History
The U-M Museum of Art puts art and ideas at the center of campus and public life. We create experiences that enrich our understanding of one another, foster joy, and build a more just future. Through exhibitions, programs, research, and community partnerships we are redefining what a campus museum can be.
Introduction From the Director
We began the process that led to this strategic plan in November 2019, more than two years ago. During those long 24 months the world jumped its tracks, and the University of Michigan Museum of Art, and our ideas and ideals about our future, jumped with it.
This plan, and our work at UMMA, is centered on one question: How do we lead real change in museums, so that the communities we care about can thrive in the 21st century?
UMMA‘s core values
Through a series of all-staff and small group conversations, UMMA staff articulated five Core Values that will guide the Museum’s work going forward.
ART – Art strengthens human connection and creates a more just future.
This means we:
- Create experiences with art that transform the way we see each other and the world
- Support individuals and communities in finding meaning through art
- Support artists in creating, sharing, and preserving their art
- Embrace the capacity of art to build empathy, social cohesion, and foster joy
EQUITY – Access to art is a fundamental human right.
This means we:
- Actively dismantle barriers to participation for everyone
- Continually build UMMA’s intercultural understanding and anti-racist practice
- Amplify BIPOC voices and under-told stories
- Create spaces that are welcoming and equitable for all
- Make UMMA’s collection accessible for all, both in-person and online
COLLABORATION – Collaboration is central to everything we do.
This means we:
- Embrace partnerships across the U-M campus
- Invest in intentional, consistent, and reciprocal relationships
- Learn from and co-create projects with the communities we seek to engage
- Respect and cultivate diverse expertise
CHANGE – Museums must change their practices to be relevant to, and support, a breadth of communities.
This means we:
- Support new ways of creating, collaborating, and learning
- Take informed risks and learn from our mistakes
- Initiate challenging projects that illuminate ideas and spark growth
- Question assumptions about what a campus museum should be
CARE – We care for our colleagues, collaborators, communities, and art.
This means we:
- Extend genuine empathy, kindness, and generosity
- Honor the rich diversity of people, experiences, and ideas
- Compensate staff and collaborators fairly and invest in their well-being and growth
- Steward UMMA’s art and resources
Engage Diverse Communities & Perspectives
Art is a fundamental human right and equity must be central to everything that UMMA does.
Why we’re engaging diverse communities and perspectives now
Historically, the collections, programming, staff and visitorship at U.S. art museums have not reflected the diversity of their local communities. More than 80% of artists represented in the collections of major U.S. museums are white, and more than 85% are male. Further, the majority of art museum employees are white. UMMA is no different. In order to fulfill UMMA’s mission we must prioritize new ways of working to contribute to a more equitable future for our communities and institution.
We seek to make UMMA a more diverse and welcoming place. UMMA will be a site where courageous and important conversations can take place, and where empathy is encouraged by considering perspectives across time, culture, identity, and geography. To do this we must welcome, represent, and partner with diverse groups on campus, in the region, and beyond, and build authentic relationships that support co-creation. Over the next five years, UMMA will become a better partner to communities we have not previously served well. We will prioritize deepening connections with Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities, beginning with U-M BIPOC and first-generation students, and BIPOC residents and K-12 students in Washtenaw County. This builds upon the work underway as part of UMMA’s Commitment to Anti-Racist Action and a More Inclusive Museum and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) plan.
In five years ..
Increasingly diverse people, experiences, and ideas will be present and prioritized within the Museum’s staff, among Museum visitors, and the artists represented in UMMA’s exhibitions, programs, and collection. With investments in programming, education, and community collaboration UMMA will be known as a partner that listens well. UMMA will be transparent about its history and will sustain, and continuously improve upon, the work necessary to be an anti-racist museum. UMMA is working toward a more equitable future in which underserved communities view the Museum as an open, safe, and comfortable place that adds value to their lives.
Tactics to Engage Diverse Communities and Perspectives
Conduct listening sessions with communities who have been underserved by UMMA, including:
- BIPOC community members.
- LGBTQ+ community members.
- Community members with disabilities.
- First-generation U-M students.
- Other individuals and groups not yet identified.
Implement DEI best practices for recruiting, hiring, and supporting staff, interns, and advisors
- Increase the diversity of the Museum’s advisory boards, councils, and volunteer corps.
- Develop and implement a more transparent and accessible process for hiring and onboarding interns and student workers. See more in the Advance Teaching and Learning strategy.
- Require DEI training for UMMA staff, volunteers, and student interns.
- Increase pay equity through a U-M pay equity audit and equity-based salary support.
- Design and conduct an annual staff climate survey.
Co-curate exhibitions and programs with diverse communities
- Develop a five-year plan for a Power Family Program for Inuit Art exhibition, commission, and scholarship, in partnership with Inuit Futures.
- Support art-based academic research into themes and issues related to DEI.
- Open UMMA’s communications channels to more diverse contributors.
- Increase the capacity of the curatorial team to forge new partnerships.
- Use UMMA’s resources to support and be of service to local community members and organizations.
Develop and share new collection and exhibition policies in alignment with antiracist values
- Establish and implement processes to review all UMMA exhibitions, programs, and initiatives through a lens of diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, anti-racism, and social justice.
- Prioritize exhibitions and research projects that investigate and make transparent a more complex history of UMMA’s collections, building, and the broader university campus.
- Explore options for repatriating or making restitution for objects of questionable provenance, where appropriate.
- Make significant progress on implementing additional options, including the deaccessioning of art, to further diversify UMMA’s collection.
- Be a resource for other institutions that seek to be more transparent about the history of their collections by actively making our work known.
Why We’re Supporting Civic Life & Shared Experience Now
To hold true meaning and value for our communities, we must embrace UMMA’s role as a vital piece of social infrastructure—a free, open space that matters for most people, not just a privileged few. Public institutions, such as art museums, must do more to ensure our spaces are open, welcoming, and joyful sites for dynamic public life. Art has special capacities to deepen shared community life: it helps us understand ourselves and the world around us more deeply; it can bring healing to communities who need it, clarity to those in search of an answer, and empowerment to the disenfranchised.
UMMA’s commitment to civic life and shared experiences expands on U-M’s leadership in developing equitable partnerships that allow for an open exchange of resources and ideas between the university, local and regional communities, and the world beyond. UMMA seeks to inspire others on campus, and at campus museums more broadly, to embrace the importance of strengthening civic life.
UMMA will be a reimagined art museum, one with an irresistible public draw that is a conduit for social life, and encourages interactivity, positive social friction, critical thinking and dialogue, and social bonding that works against isolation, polarization, and transactional exchange.
In Five Years, UMMA Will…
Be broadly perceived by key communities as a dynamic and vital cultural center where they go to socialize, find inspiration, and be exposed to new ideas. By reimagining the use of UMMA’s public spaces, a wide range of visitors will experience deepened cultural engagement that supports their needs and desires. UMMA will understand more about who uses the Museum’s spaces and platforms and how to make those spaces and platforms more widely accessible and welcoming. Other U-M units and campus museums will draw inspiration for their own transformations to build social cohesion through powerful shared experiences. We will have an established reputation as an art museum that connects with its public in unique and meaningful ways.
ADVANCE TEACHING, LEARNING & STUDENT PARTICIPATION
Museum-based teaching and learning creates a sense of belonging and deepens our understanding of one another.
Why We’re Advancing Teaching, Learning & Student Participation Now
As an art museum on a college campus, UMMA is deeply committed to supporting learners and educators at all levels. UMMA is a national leader in university curricular integration across a broad range of disciplines both within and beyond the arts. This plan will deepen collaborations both with faculty and students, develop unexpected and innovative university partnerships, and broaden the reach of classroom experiences at the university and in the region’s K-12 schools. The plan also embraces opportunities for UMMA to act as a site for experiential learning and emphasizes UMMA’s interest in learning from student perspectives.
Collections, exhibitions, and programs all serve as catalysts for exploration of current and historical events; UMMA’s collection in particular is a potent resource for understanding the complexities of the human experience. This plan will extend UMMA’s resources to underserved communities through inclusive teaching practices, intentional collaboration and partnership, and development of pedagogical materials for teachers and students with a focus on the ability of art, exhibitions, and programs to tell stories that resonate, challenge, and illuminate.
In Five Years, UMMA Will…
Be a center for teaching and learning and a leader in equitable pedagogical practice that is known for experimentation, innovation, and inspiration. UMMA will partner across the U-M campus to increase the breadth of discipline and research in the Museum. We will expand the use of exhibitions and programs by faculty and students through increased co-curation and early collaboration. Members of the Student Engagement Council (SEC) will be involved in important decision-making, and we will provide more opportunities for paid internships and graduate student fellowships. UMMA will transform its K-12 program to meet the curricular and social needs of a more diverse school population by increasing the diversity of educators in its galleries as well as the diversity of the stories it tells.
Tactics to Advance Teaching & Learning
Deepen and expand university partnerships that further research, teaching, and learning
Support and prioritize student voice and agency in UMMA’s core work
Realign K-12 learning to meet the needs of teachers and students, and support equitable, anti-racist practice
SHAPE A VITAL EXHIBITION PROGRAM & COLLECTION FOR THE TIMES WE LIVE IN
Our collection and exhibition program are a dynamic source of ideas, inspiration, and identification for our communities.
Why We’re Shaping a Vital Program & Collection Now
UMMA’s collection is a versatile and expansive resource. As the site where art collections meet new generations of people, the Museum has an obligation to steward and realize the potential of the collection. This plan will help the Museum deploy the collection to the benefit of its diverse publics, using art to deepen understanding of the past and present, develop empathy for others and ourselves, and re-imagine potential futures.
This plan will deliver on the potential of UMMA’s collection, deploying artwork through installations that pose and research questions about global narratives of history and art history; expose colonial histories and rebalance the race and gender of artists shown on our walls; and explore the complex role visual culture plays in the world. UMMA has a powerful opportunity, and obligation, to reimagine art museums, and especially those on college campuses. This reimagining will revitalize the meaning and purpose of a collection. Museums can reinforce oppressive and unjust systems through the means and methods used to preserve, curate, and interpret collections. However, these same practices can also amplify marginalized voices through the exploration of diverse cultures. The works of art in UMMA’s collection allow the Museum and its communities to revisit unsettled ideas and explore new ways of thinking.
In Five Years, UMMA Will…
Have an exhibition and collections installation program that is more tightly focused and deeply researched, with strengths that are well understood internally and externally.
UMMA’s installations and exhibitions will center on salient topics, developed from interdisciplinary and collaborative research and learning with U-M faculty and students and the broader public. UMMA’s collection will increasingly become an exciting site where visitors can wrestle with ideas and arguments about critical issues in the world today.
To realize this vision, UMMA must collect and commission new work and reimagine the Museum’s galleries. The Museum will move away from single time and place schemas, instead drawing on connections between places and periods, exploring multiple narratives, and diversifying global art histories with imaginative installation and gallery design. UMMA will improve physical infrastructure and allocate additional time and resources to research of the collection. To broaden access and understanding of UMMA’s collection, the Museum will partner with artists, scholars, students, and community members by participating in local, national, and international art-world conversations via publications, exhibitions, and events.