Subject Matters


Spend an evening with art and ideas

ccminilogo.png Offered in conjunction with Curriculum / Collection at UMMA

Subject Matters is like an internet rabbit hole happening live, at an art museum. 

This popular event series returns in Fall 2022 and invites you to have the same kind of fun exploration of ideas and connections in person that you love scrolling through online. 

If you’d watch a video with any of these titles, Subject Matters is an event you don’t want to miss:

  • The Disturbing and Dangerous Ways Art Helped Build European Empires
  • The Metaphysical Questions ‘Weird Art’ Is Helping Us Answer
  • This Art Is Too Big (And Too Small) To Be Made By Humans

For each session, you’ll join a guest U-M professor or curator and UMMA curator Dave Choberka for an evening of intriguing exploration, sparks of curiosity, and a new kind of social learning with art. For 90 minutes, you’ll dive deep into a topic you had no idea could be so interesting, and leave thinking “who knew I loved learning about [insert subject matter here]!"


All sessions are on Tuesday nights from 6:00 - 7:30pm.
This is an in-person event, held at UMMA.
Free. Registration Required.

Subject Matter: The Water Cycle

The Not-So-Hidden Ways Water Impacts History, Culture, Our Bodies, and Our Homes

It’s the most powerful force on Earth, and a pretty powerful tool for art as well. Join UMMA’s Associate Curator of Photography on an exploration of how water shapes communities and how artists are working to tell those stories.

October 11
6:00 pm - 7:30pm

Register Here

LaToya Ruby Frazier
Shea brushing Zion's teeth with bottled water in her bathroom
gelatin silver print on paper
45 ½ in x 35 ½ in x 21 ½ in (115.57 cm x 90.17 cm x 54.61 cm)
Museum purchase made possible by the University of Michigan Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and the Director's Acquisition Committee, 2019

Subject Matter: French Studies

Et Après? Survival, Scars, Guilt, Redemption, and Recovery in Literature and Art

Deep dive into the world of possibilities that all start from a seemingly simple question after tumultuous events: What happens next? Guest Faculty member David Caron (Romance Languages and Literatures, Women’s and Gender Studies) will guide you through this exploration of hope, promise, and the je ne sais quoi.

This subject is currently full

October 25
6:00 pm - 7:30pm

Join Waitlist

Joan Snyder
Art and the Nature of Grief
monoprint on paper
38 7/8 x 25 13/16 in. (98.7 x 65.5 cm);41 5/16 x 28 5/16 in. (104.78 x 71.76 cm)
Museum purchase made possible by the Jean Paul Slusser Memorial Fund

Subject Matter: How to Think

How Photography and Image Processing Offers a Window Into the Human Creative Process Too

When light hits photo-sensitive paper it creates a chemical reaction. Is that so different from the chemical reaction happening in our brains when we make and create? Maybe not. Guest Faculty member Ray Wetzel (Residential College) will explore this idea using photography in UMMA’s collection.

This subject is currently full

November 15
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm

Join Waitlist

Meghann Riepenhoff at work creating Waters of the Americas: EPA ID NYD980592497, Eastman Kodak’s Emissions B (Confluence of the Genesee River and Lake Ontario, Rochester, NY, 03.12.2022)
Courtesy the artist and Yossi Milo Gallery © Meghann Riepenh


Art in Nature - This Art Is Too Big (And Too Small) To Be Made By Humans

Spirals, dendrites, fractals. Take a deep dive through art into the micro and macro worlds of nature along with UMMA Curator for University Learning and Programs David Choberka and U-M faculty and artist Cathy Barry (Stamps School of Art and Design; Program in the Environment).

Karl Blossfeldt
Struthiopteris germanica
rotogravure on paper
9 5/16 in x 12 1/8 in (23.65 cm x 30.8 cm)

Seeing Empires - How Pictures of Animals Helped Build Empires

How did paintings of dogs, cats, and horses help build European empires? Consider this question along with UMMA Curator for University Learning and Programs and U-M faculty Bénédicte Boisseron (Department of Afroamerican and African Studies). Boisseron and Choberka will take you on a journey to explore how empires see the world and how representations of animals and actual animals themselves have been deployed in the building and unmaking of empires.

Marc Chagall
Arabian Nights. Pl. 13. Shaharazad's Night. "Then said the king in himself, 'By Allah, I will not slay her, until I have heard the next of her tale.' So they slept the rest of that night in mutual embrace till day finally brake..."
color lithograph on paper
17 in x 13 in (43.18 cm x 33.02 cm)

Materials Science and Engineering - What is This Made Of? 

How do crystal structures at the microscopic level lead to macro effects in art objects? Just what is a polymer? Is smell a material? Consider these questions and more at the intersection of materials, making, and meaning along with UMMA Curator for University Learning and Programs and U-M faculty Tim Chambers (Materials Science and Engineering).

An iron sculpture with two sections of iron that are joined together by a small connection halfway up their sides. The section on the left is a four sided piece that is divided into smaller parts. The section on the right is more cyllindrical with two branches coming off on the right. The piece sits on a large rectangular base.

Miguel Berrocal
24 in. x 19 1/2 in. x 6 in. ( 61 cm x 49.6 cm x 15.2 cm )
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Joseph A. Gosman

We’d love to see you at all the Subject Matters sessions! Keep your eyes open for new Subject Matters sessions in upcoming semesters.

Subject Matters is offered in collaboration with the UM faculty who worked with UMMA to curate installations in Curriculum / Collection for use by their university classes. Together, we are bringing the UMMA classroom experience to you. You’ll learn about the subject matter, about art, and you’ll have loads of fun doing it. We hope to see you there.

Click to Continue Exploring Curriculum / Collection