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Creative Adaptations: Exhibiting During the Pandemic

While many museums and galleries are finding new ways to connect artists and audiences virtually during the pandemic, we all miss the experience of seeing creative work in-person.

We look forward to the intangible joy, the sense of discovery, and the unexpected connections that exhibitions “in real life” can bring. In the meantime, Stamps Professor Nick Tobier is finding ways to spark some of that “stumbled upon joy” in communities through window-scape exhibitions.

Union Hall

Through an agreement with the landlord at Union Hall (208 W. Liberty St., Ann Arbor),

Tobier has been showcasing work by Stamps students in the windows of the space. He will continue to do so in a “pop up” capacity until a long-term tenant is found.

While the exhibition is restricted to a “street view” experience (the space is not open to visitors), it offers the citizens of Ann Arbor a look into the work of Stamps students at a time when the pandemic has restricted access to Stamps Gallery and to the Art & Architecture Building.

The windows of Union Hall have been graced with the work of Nick McIntyre (BFA ’20), Rori Miller (BA ‘20), and others. Work featured also appears on Instagram.

Work by Rory Miller (BA '20)

“I think I have always had a ground floor/ street level interest that I personally really miss during COVID when we are less able to wander and wonder,” Tobier said.

Michigan Research Studio/ArcPrep

Tobier has also been curating “pop up” window exhibitions featuring the work of Detroit artists and designers at Taubman College’s Michigan Research Studio/ArcPrep space on Selden Street, near the corner of Woodward Avenue in Detroit. The Michigan Research Studio/ArcPrep space is typically where high school juniors in the Detroit Public Schools come to participate in ArcPrep programs, which have been virtual since the onset of the pandemic.

Yvette Rock, "Money Head"

Exhibitions in this space have included work by Yvette Rock (MFA ‘99); Ishinomaki Lab and the Brightmoor Maker Space; and Stef-n-Ty, showcasing cloth masks made in collaboration with Artists and Allies.

Contributing to the curiosity

In considering the “spark” for these window exhibitions, Tobier offers the wisdom of Southampton mayor Jesse Warren’s Storefront Art Project, an initiative requiring landlords to fill vacant storefront spaces with creations from community artists.

Tobier also reflects on his time living in and renovating a 19h century warehouse in Salem, Massachusetts. The building had a street-level window facing an alley where Tobier would display intriguing objects that he would discover during the course of his renovation work — old pulleys, wooden boxes, and “once, a box of framed photographs of an aquarium competition from the 1940’s.” Tobier would change the objects in the window exhibition daily, late at night.

“One day I overheard people in the alley talking about the strange window and wondering what they might see next,” Tobier said.

“So that’s part of it — the generosity of sharing or making things public a big part of it, and contributing to the street level curiosity that is so much a part of urban life.”