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October 16, 2023

The University of Michigan Announces New Curator of Art in Public Spaces

ANN ARBOR, October 16, 2023—The University of Michigan has created a new position, curator of art in public spaces, a cross-campus role that will oversee the display, acquisition, and overall curation strategy of U-M’s public art collection.

In addition, the U-M Museum of Art and the Arts Initiative have announced that Jennifer Carty has been hired to fill that position effective Oct. 23.

In coordination with the Office of the President, Carty will serve as a creative, collaborative arts leader for the campus, managing which works of art will be exhibited both permanently and temporarily on U-M’s campuses. She will work with artists on new commission projects, and will play a key role in coordinating cross-campus collaborations related to public art.

The curator will work closely with the President’s Advisory Committee on Public Art, which strives to enrich the university’s visual environment by positioning works of public art of the highest caliber by a broad diversity of artists across campus.

Reporting jointly to UMMA Director Christina Olsen and Mark Clague, interim executive director of the Arts Initiative, the curator of art in public spaces will lead efforts to develop compelling, complex, and engaging projects that will speak to relevant topics in the world today and place art and ideas at the center of campus life.

“Jenny is amazing, and in her new role as our inaugural curator of art in public spaces she will bring a visibility and coherence to public art across campus for the first time,” Olsen said.

“Her combination of experience on campuses across the country and knowledge and relationships with artists puts U-M in a great position to embed globally important art and ideas into campus conversations in meaningful ways.”

Carty is a 2010 graduate of U-M’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, and comes with a breadth and depth of experience activating campuses and communities with public art programs. Her most recent role was associate curator of modern and contemporary art at the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art. She also has worked at the Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University and Michigan State University’s Broad Art Museum.

“I am thrilled to be joining the teams at UMMA and the Arts Initiative to build upon the exhilarating momentum surrounding the arts on campus,” Carty said. “Public art has the unique capacity to give voice to the identity of its place, to ignite creative and critical thought, and galvanize communities.”

“At the University of Michigan, a leading public university dedicated to creating a culture of diversity, belonging, and accessibility, the potential for public art is unmatched. As an alum, I am delighted to be returning to campus and honored for the opportunity to take on this exciting new role.”

The curator of art in public spaces will work closely with a wide array of cross-campus partners, including the President’s Advisory Committee on Public Art, UMMA, the Arts Initiative, and the Inclusive History Project, sharing responsibility for managing, documenting, tracking, and reporting on the collections, as well as advising university departments looking to commission or place public art. As U-M aspires to possess a cohesive public art collection of national significance by a broad diversity of artists, Carty’s appointment is a milestone.

“Ours is truly an art-infused campus, and the museums and concert venues where you’d expect to find it are only a beginning. Outdoor sculpture and other public art challenges us to find beauty and creativity in everything we do,” Clague said.

“Having the first-ever curator of art in public spaces on campus will bring a new intentionality to the role art plays to inspire research and learning, helping us to connect with more diverse ideas and to see the world with fresh eyes focused on possibility.”

A line of people walk toward a museum entrance, and a large sculpture of a white head stands tall next to them.
Photo by Mark Gjukich

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