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The Importance of Student Art in the Art & Architecture Building

A Message from the Dean

A student hangs a work of art on a wall in the Art & Architecture building.
Students hanging paintings on The Wall” in the Art & Architecture Building in February 2024.
Portrait of Carlos Jackson
Carlos Francisco Jackson is dean of the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan.

Slowly but surely, creative works by students are taking over the Art and Architecture Building, home to the Stamps School of Art & Design.

Fueled by the positive energy of returning fully to a regular academic and creative schedule in the post-pandemic era, more faculty and students are seeking opportunities for students to get hands-on experience installing their work on the walls of our Art & Architecture building. It’s been an exciting shift in momentum this year, as nearly every week, there are new art and design projects on display. 

At the beginning of the academic year, I pledged we would advance an initiative to assist students in engaging in self-directed exhibition opportunities throughout our building. Despite needing a dedicated gallery space within the Art & Architecture building to exhibit art and design objects/​interventions/​experiences, we improvised in a way that brought about a dramatic transformation. With a staff person appointed to support and manage the process, we have activated the common spaces along our corridors, high walls, display cases, and the Street Gallery on the first floor. Students guided by faculty and staff regularly display, disseminate, and share their work. 

Faculty are helping to lead the way, regularly scheduling installations and de-installations, helping students hone their knowledge, skills, and talent, and helping them understand the process of exhibiting their work. 

Jim Cogswell works with students to hang art on the walls of the Art & Architecture building

“Installing their artwork gives students agency,” said Jim Cogswell, professor of art and design. “When students get these opportunities, it empowers them. They learn the practical aspects of what it means to be an artist, and it helps them to develop their skills and confidence as they grow into their role as a professional creative.”

Work by students in Jessica Frelinghuysen’s ARTDES 203: Social Spaces class is displayed in the street gallery.
A display in late December 2023 by instructor Jessica Frelinghuysen’s ARTDES 203: Social Spaces class. The drawings are from a figure drawing activity where the artists immersed themselves in depicting mobility aids in visdev and concept art. These skills are not just about representation; they’re about fostering inclusivity in the future of creative practices.

In just a few short months, the Art & Architecture building has a regular rotation of student art proliferating the spaces. It is becoming a place for visitors to pause and take in the creative works made by Stamps students, making it a destination for anyone seeking inspiration from creative work. 

But more than that, it provides another avenue for students to have their work seen and appreciated by others. Without opportunities to share their work with others, whether on North Campus, in the Stamps Gallery, or elsewhere in the world, the students’ praxis misses a crucial element: the ability to have one’s creative materializations engage a broader community context, having those materializations be a means by which to engage others in dialogue. When our creative work leaves our individual spaces and engages a broader public, new relationships and forms of energy are generated. It is this energy that we are hoping to continue facilitating throughout our studios and common spaces in the Art & Architecture building.

Ceramics by Stamps students from a display in Fall 2023 as part of the “Arts & Resistance” themed semester.
Ceramics by Stamps students from a display in Fall 2023 as part of the Arts & Resistance” themed semester.

To that end, we are committing our resources to providing more resources for students to exhibit in the Art & Architecture Building. On March 13, the Stamps Giving Blueday fundraising effort focused solely on raising more funding support for expanding display opportunities throughout the year. With the help of our broader Stamps Community, we surpassed our goal and continued to build the Student Exhibition Fund. This fund allows for the purchase of more equipment, supplies, cases, and other items to continue this important practice for students. Thanks to all of you who contributed to this incredible effort.

I hope that when you have time, you will come by the Art & Architecture Building this spring to see all the creative work our students have worked so hard to produce. Likewise, I invite you to join us as we work to build ever greater opportunities to facilitate art and design-oriented experimentation, research, and play. While the building is teeming with creative work and while students are ever more exhibiting and displaying their work, there is still more to be done as we seek to build a community of artistic and design-oriented exchange. I am grateful for all your support as we build in this direction and look forward to engaging one another around, between, and immersed in Stamps creative work.