U-M Museum of Art extends hours, opens new fall exhibitions, invites visitors to ‘claim your space’

August 23, 2021
Written By:
Sydney Hawkins

The University of Michigan Museum of Art will welcome back visitors this fall with longer hours and new exhibitions that uphold an empowering theme.

According to Christopher Ankney, UMMA director of marketing and public relations, the museum’s newly launched “Claim Your Space” campaign encourages visitors from U-M and the greater Southeast Michigan community not only to feel a sense of belonging, but to imagine themselves engaging with the museum in new ways.

“We want to recognize that there are many who haven’t felt welcome or haven’t seen themselves represented on the museum walls in the past,” he said. “We want people to know that everyone’s story and experience has meaning and a place in history—and we’re working to right that wrong.”

As part of the campaign, UMMA collaborated with the U-M student group Filmic to create a short film to promote the idea. In it, dancer and choreographer Lauren Roebuck — also a U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance student — plays an UMMA Store worker who closes up for the night. Inspired by the various works of art, Roebuck’s character dances in various locations around the museum to a composition by SMTD student Samuel Uribe-Botero.

In addition to ads featuring Roebuck that visitors can expect to see throughout campus and in the museum, “Claim Your Space” is also represented through UMMA’s programming and exhibitions on view throughout the museum this year. They will address themes like sexual identity and gender expression, colonialism and racism, and representation within the collection.

“This is an important time for UMMA because people are still reeling from the ongoing pandemic, the country’s racial reckoning and a truly tumultuous year and a half,” said UMMA Director Christina Olsen. “Museums are unique places where people can come together to reflect on what we’ve been through and to heal. Being present with art helps people interpret the past and present and put their own experiences in a larger context. It helps us reflect and make meaning of our lives.”

As part of UMMA’s commitment to welcome a broader audience to engage with the museum, they will be open until 8 p.m. four nights a week starting Sept. 7. The later hours will be available Thursday through Sunday.

“We are offering later hours in order to make the museum space more accessible to more people, to allow more opportunities for people to come after work or school, or when nearby parking is free,” Ankney said.

UMMA, which is currently open to the public 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursdays and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, currently requires all visitors to wear a mask and to complete a ResponsiBLUE health questionnaire screening upon entry.

Exhibitions on view or opening soon include:

  • Unsettling Histories: Legacies of Slavery and Colonialism: This exhibition critiques long histories of art museums favoring colonial voices. Updated labels about works in UMMA’s collection, new works from contemporary artists and a confrontation of uncomfortable truths reveals a more complex and honest view of 18th and 19th century American and European art. On view now.
  • Oh, Honey … A Queer Reading of UMMA’s Collection: What makes a work of art, or a space, queer? Who decides? In a first for UMMA, student fellow Sean Kramer presents an exhibition of art in UMMA’s collection, curated from his unique lens as an LGBTQ+ graduate student at U-M. Opening Aug. 21.
  • We Write To You About Africa: Doubling the space dedicated to African art at UMMA, this exhibition explores the ways in which Africa and the art of the African diaspora has been treated in the Global North. Opening Aug. 21.
  • Wish You Were Here: African Art and Restitution: In this exhibition, UMMA will host an in-public investigation into 11 works of African art in the museum’s collection. Visitors—in-person and online—will have access to documents, photographs and correspondence that are being used by UMMA to develop a better understanding of each object’s history. The museum will grapple, in real time, with questions surrounding legal and ethical ownership of these artworks. Opening Aug. 21.

Written by Lilian Varner