ArtsEngine and a2ru Receive Federal Arts Research Grant

Ann Arbor— ArtsEngine, an interdisciplinary program at the University of Michigan, and the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru), a network of 44 research universities committed to fostering arts-integrated research, teaching, and practice, has been awarded its first grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to bolster their work.

Today, National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu announced 10 awards totaling $550,000 to that investigate the value and/or impact of the arts, either as individual components of the U.S. arts ecology or as they interact with each other and/or with other domains of American life. Included in this announcement is a Research: Art Works award of $20,000 to ArtsEngine and the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru) based at the University of Michigan to support the development of an evidence-based taxonomy describing the value of arts and design for higher education, communities, and workforce development.  

As part of the project, researchers will synthesize data from an in-depth literature review and from 472 individual interviews that previously have been conducted with faculty, administrators, and students at approximately 46 U.S. universities, about their use of arts and design. Also to be included in the synthesis are survey data concerning the arts engagement of University of Michigan students, including a longitudinal cohort. Multiple qualitative and quantitative research approaches will be used to build the taxonomy, which will be vetted and refined in participatory design workshops. Results from the study are expected to guide the design of a research instrument that can validate features of the taxonomy. These tools would give educators and policy-makers a greater understanding of the role that arts and design play in higher education and in achieving broader societal outcomes. The University of Michigan researchers represent the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (A2RU), a national organization.


To join the Twitter conversation about this announcement, use #NEASpring18 and tag @NEAarts. For more information on projects included in the NEA grant announcement, go to

For more information on the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities, visit


Announcing the Winners of 42 Hours of Re_Creativity

ArtsEngine is pleased to congratulate the winners of our 42 Hours of Re_Creativity makeathon on the theme of Transportation Solutions: Getting Here, Going There!

First Place:
Team Late Knights, for their elevated on-demand mechanized pedestrian/bicycle bridge between North Campus and Central Campus.

Second Place:
Team Concrete Designers, for their community transportation problem-solving game, and their innovative use of found materials in locally produced pavers.

Third Place (tie):
Team Arch City, for their neighborhood pedestrian modular malls, designed to address the “Last Mile” problem.
Team MBM, for their on-demand tracked bicycle system, designed to address connections between North and Central campus, lower demand on buses, and overcome the “bikes in the wrong place” problem.

Honorable Mention:
Team Vibranium, for their ideas to improve the environment on buses to improve mental health and “mindedness” for student travelers.

Teams were also eligible for an additional award from our partnership with the U-M Poverty Solutions initiative, focusing on projects that addresses economic mobility or solutions that were focused toward underserved populations.

First Place:
Team Michigan Synthetic Biology, for their animation addressing the “Last Mile” problem, especially as it relates to rural communities.

Honorable Mentions:
Team Arch City
Team Concrete Designers

The recognized U-M Poverty Solutions team projects were exhibited at the Road Out of Poverty: A Transportation and Mobility Symposium, held on March 15 at the Michigan League.

For full information on this event, and other ArtsEngine initiatives and programs, click HERE.

School of Information Joins ArtsEngine as Fifth Academic Unit of Governance

University of Michigan’s ArtsEngine program, a national model for integrated curricular and co-curricular programming, welcomes the U-M School of Information (UMSI) as its fifth supporting academic unit. Created in 2006, ArtsEngine is an interdisciplinary arts integration initiative founded by the four U-M North Campus schools and colleges—the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, and the College of Engineering.

The Michigan School of Information’s (UMSI’s) programs are broadly interdisciplinary, making ArtsEngine an ideal collaborative partner. The faculty come from many fields—from computer science to history to psychology to business. Their diverse student body likewise represents well over 100 majors. With the mission of building a better world through technology and information, UMSI’s faculty, staff, and students reflect the intellectual diversity of the broad range of social and technological sciences that make up the unique UMSI approach to solving information problems.

Dr. Laurie Baefsky, Executive Director of ArtsEngine and the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru), sees this partnership with UMSI as the next logical step for ArtsEngine at Michigan. “Our students are digital natives. They arrive hungry to apply technologies, information, and social practice to their own majors and career interests. ArtsEngine strives to provide a gateway for this exploration, through collaborative opportunities spanning multiple disciplines. UMSI also does this, by design!” Baefsky continues, “Bringing UMSI into ArtsEngine connects our students, faculty and program administrators on the North and Central campuses through direct programs and greatly expanded tools and resources.”

Thomas A. Finholt, Dean of the School of Information, agrees. “We expect our partnership with ArtsEngine to enhance our already strong ties to the North Campus schools and colleges and present us with new opportunities for partnerships with them. As we look forward to relocating to the North Campus in the next five years, we see this as a natural step in exploring ways in which we can collaborate with our future neighbors.” UMSI Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Elizabeth Yakel concurs, “UMSI faculty are already engaged with ArtsEngine and this official step will solidify and extend that involvement. We also look forward to more student interaction in courses and co-curricular activities among students from the four schools.”

ArtsEngine’s mission is to inspire, foster, and strengthen intellectual collisions and durable collaborative practices driven by the arts, to fully maximize the potential of each student and faculty member on North Campus and at the University of Michigan. 

Artists in Residence: Stamps Students in the Space Lab

Original story available HERE.
Artists in Residence: Stamps Students in the Space Lab

Artists in Residence: Stamps Students in the Space Lab

It’s reasonable to expect that the average person doesn’t dwell too much on the fact that the sun is perpetually flinging lethal particles of itself at Earth — unless that person is building a magnetometer to measure the strength of the earth’s protective magnetic field. Such is the case with University of Michigan Professor Mark Moldwin and his team of researchers, climate scientists, and two undergraduate students from the Stamps School of Art & Design: Anna Brooks (Interarts BFA ’18) and Joe Iovino (BFA ’18).


During the winter 2017 term, Professor Moldwin worked with ArtsEngine — U-M’s administrative unit committed to interdisciplinary learning on north campus — to create the inaugural Moldwin Art Prize, an artist residency where undergraduate students are competitively selected and welcomed into Professor Moldwin’s lab. Here, the students join a team of researchers to conduct work in the areas of space weather (how the sun influences the space environment of Earth and society) and magnetic sensor development. This opportunity is open to undergraduate students currently enrolled in the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design; the Taubman School of Architecture and Urban Planning; and the School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

“Our first major challenge was to figure out how our skills as artists could be applied in the lab,” said Anna Brooks. “But Professor Moldwin really encouraged us to do whatever we felt was right. Joe and I talked it over and we felt that the best route to go was not to be scientists, but to be artists.”

While both Brooks and Iovino are seniors at the Stamps School, the two hadn’t met prior to the residency. In addition to navigating what role they’d play in the lab, they were also faced with defining their approach to creative work. “We met for coffee at the start of the residency and both recognized pretty quickly that we’d be better as a team than working individually. I do video and animation and Anna does music and audio. Collaborating in the lab was an opportunity to make something that neither of us had made before,” Joe Iovino said.

Fueled by expansive curiosity and shaped by a shared approach, Iovino and Brooks began their creative process with research. Conducted primarily through first-person interviews with the lab researchers — and underscored by rigorously informative weekly meetings with Professor Moldwin — Brooks and Iovino developed an in-depth understanding and vocabulary around the concepts of heliophysics and the Magnetic Shield.

“NASA education videos really helped me to solidify some of the concepts we learned about in the lab,” Brooks said. “One of the images in the videos really struck me: it showed a tiny earth being bombarded with solar wind with its magnetic field shielding us from all this catastrophe — it left me completely awestruck. I realized how unlikely we are and how great it is to exist.”

Inspired, Brooks penned a song entitled Our Magnetic Shield. “I thought the song was great — really poetic,” said Iovino. “I’d done a previous stop-motion video, and thought it would be great if we made one for the song.”

“It was good to finally figure out what we could do to support the lab research,” said Brooks. “Inspiring people to teach themselves about science is something we can do as artists.”

With the research phase complete and the creative concept solidified, Iovino and Brooks moved ahead with an iterative, yet straightforward making process: storyboards, mockups, production. But like every productive collaboration, there was a focused commitment to sustaining creative alignment. “We learned how to question each other’s ideas really thoroughly and make it so that we weren’t making compromises — instead, we uncovered new solutions together,” said Brooks.

“It was important for us to understand each other’s work style and goals,” Iovino said. “Anna wants to make things as good as possible. I wanted this too — but I also was really mindful of our budget, time-table, and how much we could get done. These aspects of our personalities helped us to know when we were being too ambitious and when we were being too reserved.”

Additionally, Professor Moldwin’s lab protocols helped shape the creative process. In a space lab, contingency plans are a critical component to any project — including creative ones. “There was a contingency plan for everything,” Iovino said. “It taught us artists to think like scientists.”

At the end of the residency, Professor Moldwin threw a party at his home to screen Our Magnetic Shield“We met so many interesting people — scientists and researchers — and many were interested in similar collaborations with us,” said Iovino.

“It was life-changing – we’re both beyond grateful,” said Brooks.

Applications for the 2018 Moldwin Prize are open through Friday, November 17, 2017. More: