By Tara Cavanaugh The latest exhibit at the University of Michigan School of Art and Design opened Monday with the flair of a world-class art show. A live presentation showed art in process. Violins serenaded the thick crowd. Art hung from the ceiling, gleamed in display cases and beckoned from the walls. But this new exhibit was unusually diverse in medium and message, thanks to its hundreds of young artists from the Ann Arbor Public Schools. Many of the artists were on hand, showing their work to their admiring fans. In true artist fashion, few divulged the secrets behind their work, letting their pieces speak for themselves.
Megan Wesner was different. The senior from Huron gave a glimpse behind her work –after, of course, proudly posing next to her piece for a photograph.
“It’s a study of contrast,” she said. “The two different people who I can be.” The piece was a collage of self-portraits. Most photos were in black and white and looked like she was screaming. They contrasted a large self-portrait in color, showing Wesner’s face serene and calm.
Art can also be a way to send a message. Ann Arbor Technological High School art teacher Claudia Burns set up a live art display where anyone could shape a bone out of clay. She was inspired by the “One Million Bones Project,” which raises awareness of genocide in Sudan, Burma, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The project is collecting artwork bones for a collaborative installation to be strewn across the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in the spring of 2013, with the goal of encouraging lawmakers to help stop the crisis.
“She wanted to raise money, raise awareness and make a big statement,” Burns said about the project’s founder Naomi Natale. Burns displayed some bones her art students made. The point isn’t perfectly replicated bones, she added. “A few broken bones is probably realistic.”
Local shipping company John’s Pack and Ship will supply shipping materials such as boxes and bubble wrap. Burns collected donations to help pay for the cost of shipping the bones to Albuquerque, New Mexico. They will be collected there before making their way to D.C. by truck. Although Burns chose not to explain the mission of the clay bones to the youngest children, she explained One Million Bones to the grownups, pointing them to the project’s website.
Whether students and families molded a clay bone or just found their artwork on display, the backdrop of the U-M School of Art and Design proved particularly delightful. “I think it’s great for students to enjoy their work being displayed in a place like this,” said parent Matt Davis.
If you missed the opening, check out the slideshow above to see the artwork and hear violins played by Skyline High School Orchestra students. Or take a visit to the exhibit itself, which will be on display until June 2, 2012 in the design school’s Slusser Gallery, located at 2000 Bonisteel Blvd.