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Bridging the Divide

Principal Investigators


Arts Initiative

Bridging the Divide

The arts have a unique way of bringing people together. During Winter 2022, the inaugural cohort of Arts Initiative Creative Fellows has worked on projects focused on "Bridging the Divide," exploring the ways the arts can connect us to one another, encourage collaboration across disciplines, and promote joy and healing.

Twenty-one U-M undergraduate and graduate students currently serve as Arts Initiative Creative Fellows. The Fellows represent eight different units from all three U-M campuses.

Working in teams, the Fellows kicked off "Bridging the Divide" in January. They met with visiting artist Karen Finley, Lead Artist for the Fellowship, who led the students through reflective writing, drawing, and team-building.

Throughout February and March, the Fellows have received ongoing mentorship from both Finley and faculty mentors assigned to their team. Projects currently in progress include a tree performance rethinking human/nature relationships, the construction of a "Sanctuary at the Arb", and the placement of joyful, painted stones throughout campus.

The teams presented their creative projects in a final showcase on Friday, April 8 from 4:30-7:00pm at the James D. Reader Jr. Urban Environmental Education Center at the Nichols Arboretum.

Meet the Fellows

Sanctuary at the Arb

Erin Casler image

Erin Casler is an MBA student at the UM-Dearborn College of Business.

Bo Shimmin photo

Bo Shimmin is a master’s student in voice performance at the UM School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

Sarah Sturm photo

Sarah Sturm is an MSW student studying Interpersonal Practice in Integrated Health at UM Ann Arbor.

Joey Krampen photo

Joey Krampen is a Microbiology and Immunology graduate student at the UM College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

Spring is in the air, and we want you to enjoy it! While the Sanctuary at the Arb is in place during April 2022, our goal is to invite all those in the Ann Arbor community who could benefit from the tranquility and calm offered at the Arboretum.

Playing off of the area's natural beauty and history, Sanctuary at the Arb will offer visitors a chance to pause, breathe, and focus on feeling connected with themselves and the environment around them. Stations throughout trails in the Arb will guide visitors through meditation and stretching exercises they can practice that day or take home with them to improve habits that can boost mental health. The Sanctuary will also provide chances for visitors to experience "Augmented Reality" live music at the Arb to enjoy while taking in one of Ann Arbor's most beautiful parks.

As an additional 'thank you' and service to visitors, little libraries temporarily stationed throughout the Arb will give visitors the chance to take home free books, art supplies, tea, seeds, and other tokens of appreciation that can be enjoyed by everyone.

Looking for an excuse to get outside? Looking to connect more with yourself and nature? Look no further than Sanctuary at the Arb!

Learn more about the project here.

Faculty Mentor: Anthony Kolenic, Director of the Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum.

Body Gratitude

Maxwell Weng photo

Maxwell Weng is a Computer Science Engineering student at the UM College of Engineering.

 Yuliia Lane photo

Yuliia Lane is a Business student at UM-Flint studying International Business & Marketing.

Anika Love and Tong Hu photo

Anika Love is Communication and Media Studies student at the UM College of LSA. Tong Hu studies painting and 3D art at the Stamps School of Art & Design.

Thank You My Body

Feed You My Body

Touch My Body

Seen My Body

Above are really the phrases that I need to hear. They come from a very private and tender part of me. To self-love is to put one’s spinning mind on pause and examine the body.  While personal, I also think that this is something many people are also feeling; through language, I hope people can build and rebuild, learn and unlearn the relationships they have with their inner psyche and bodies.

Faculty Mentor: Marisa Olson, Executive Director of the Digital Studies Institute at the University of Michigan.

A Lesson in Longing

Michael O'Brien photo

Michael O'Brien is an MBA student at the UM Ross School of Business.

N'Dea Shelton image

N'Dea Shelton is a History student at the UM College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

N'Dea Shelton and Michael O'Brien are interviewing and photographing students from across the University in an effort to make meaningful connections with students they otherwise would not encounter. To photograph subjects, Michael uses a 4x5 view camera, which is a technically cumbersome and slow, film-based process that results in portrait sessions lasting up to two hours. That amount of time affords an interaction that moves beyond the superficial and creates images that speak to the level of familiarity the subject and photographer experienced. In her interviews, N'Dea asks the same subjects to complete statements like, "I'm on a journey toward," "The world would be a better place with," and "One song that describes my place in life is." The answers she collects become raw material for imagistically complicated text-based works that will be exhibited in the same gallery space as the photographs. Together, the photographic works and textual works seek to present a portrait of university life through the subjects with whom N'Dea and Michael have collaborated.

Faculty mentor: Steven Hixson, Artist and lecturer in the Stamps School of Art & Design.

The Traveling Rocks

Audrey Banks photo

Audrey Banks is an Arts & Design student at UM-Flint studying Media & Design and Graphic Design.

Lexa Jones photo

Lexa Jones is a student at the UM College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

Sophia Newton photo

Sophia Newton is a Mechanical Engineering student at the UM College of Engineering.

Wenyi Zhang photo

Wenyi Zhang is an Architecture student at UM's Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

Shrutija image.

Shrutija Ranganathan is an Electrical and Computer Engineering student at the UM College of Engineering.

Inspired by the diversity of the University of Michigan community, our project aims to collect a piece of UMich character and share it back. As the snow melts this spring, you will see the UMich Traveling Rocks scattered throughout every campus! The purpose of these stones is to connect strangers through kind words, conversations, memories, and advice.

A QR code on each rock guides its finder to add a message or photo to its journey. We will be compiling these messages on our instagram and website for everyone to see! Finders are encouraged to bring their stone to a favorite place or pass it off to a friend. This way, the rocks will soak up some of the knowledge and personality from a variety of areas as they travel. We hope this living project continues to grow in the delightful community that we all call home, setting our shared messages in stone.

Find out more here.

Faculty Mentor: Irene Hwang, Lecturer and Assistant Chair of Architecture at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.


Eaman Ali photo

Eaman Ali studies Art & Design at the Stamps School of Art & Design.

Autumn Eno photo

Autumn Eno studies Law and Social Justice, with a minor in writing, at the University of Michigan.

Constance Burroughs photo

Constance Burroughs is a Journalism and Screen Studies major at UM-Dearborn.

The Digital Divide and the Technological Bridge

With this project, we are exploring the divides caused by social media. Our team decided to compile submissions on this subject from people throughout the University of Michigan community, written on the front and back of clear phone cases with colored markers. This is intended to illustrate how the good and bad within social media can coexist, and offers a display that merges the two.

We aim to compare the bridges both built and burnt in the Covid-19 Pandemic by the same factor: Social Media. Technology affects us all in different ways, and with the introduction of zoom calls, online classes, and remote socialization, our ideas of community and friendship have changed for both the better and the worse. We want to see how that affected our community here at the University by asking the campus how they felt included via social media or tech, and one way it made learning and socializing difficult.

Faculty Mentor: Melanie Manos, interdisciplinary artist and lecturer in the Stamps School of Art & Design.

Canopy: A Campus Compendium

Noelle Dunbar photo

Noelle Dunbar is a student in both the Program in the Environment and the Organizational Studies programs at the UM College of LSA.

Kate Klassa portrait

Kate Klassa is a Sociology student at the UM College of Literature, Science, and the Arts with a minor in Dance and Performing Arts Management.

Jenna John photo

Jenna John is a dual degree student earning a BFA at the Stamps School of Art and Design and a BS in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the UM College of LSA.

Cameron Wilson photo

Cameron Wilson is a Music Performance/Composition student at the UM School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

This dynamic and publicly engaged six-part walking performance will bring music, dance, and storytelling together in order to celebrate our campus trees and challenge our community to address cultural landscapes in order to rethink human/nature relationships. The performance will begin at Ross with a brief introduction, then progress into a series of four five minute performances on campus trees, and conclude on the Diag with a final performance and zine distribution event.

For the first tree performance, we will walk along the one hundred yard path the Ross Bur Oak was moved across over a five month period 7 years ago. In doing so, we will guide audience members on a journey to explore privilege and displacement simultaneously. Then we will walk to the fence encompassing the university presidential house. Here we will invite the audience to crouch with us beneath the hemlock canopy exploding beyond this fence as we contemplate privatized access and the unknown beyond wooden walls.

Next, we will journey to Tappan Hall to gather with maples around the stump and with the debris of the, since deceased, Tappan Oak. Then, for the last tree, we will gather under the dripping canopy of American Elm. Here we will explore the history and culture surrounding American Elms that brought them to nearly every city street in the eastern United States, how this led to their downfall to dutch elm disease, and to marvel at their unique ecology and technological innovation that fosters their ongoing resilience, even after the loss of 70 million elms.

Finally, we will arrive at the Diag for a final performance that interweaves these tree stories into a multi-species ecology that invites the audience to reimagine the natural and collectively construct symbiotic landscapes beyond crisis.

Canopy: A Campus Compendium will take place Sunday, April 24 at 1pm. The walk will begin on E. University Street between the School of Education and Blau Hall.

Faculty Mentor: Sara Adlerstein-Gonzalez, Associate Research Scientist in the School for Environment and Sustainability.