ArtsEngine at University of Michigan

In may of 2011, a significant meeting occurred at the University of Michigan. The program, “ArtsEngine” convened a number of leaders in higher education to discuss, “The Role of Art-Making and the Arts in the Research University.” It was held May 4–6, 2011, in Ann Arbor. Attendance was by invitation. (Most of the content of this post was slightly adapted for verb tense from the ArtsEngine website.)


[Their] purpose in hosting this meeting was to recognize and advance research university support for art-making and the arts as a matter of great cultural significance. University sponsorship affects not only the nature, quality, and definition of the arts in society, but the intellectual and creative capacity of its faculty, students, staff, and ultimately of the general populace.

Many research universities are devoting considerable resources to building the arts and art-making into the life of the university. All of these institutions are grappling with attendant administrative and conceptual challenges, including curricular impact, funding mechanisms, and theoretical justification. This meeting was meant to address both these philosophical and practical questions.

To learn more about the impetus and goals for the meeting, read this recent Q&A with ArtsEngine’s Executive Director, Theresa Reid.


Provosts, deans, directors, faculty, and graduate students from 50 peer institutions across the U.S. were invited to participate in the meeting. A full participant list is published online.

National Task Forces

ArtsEngine established national task forces to advance the work begun by working groups during the Michigan Meeting.  Task forces were convened on the following topics:

    • Advocacy structures and strategies:  To compile information on current advocacy structures and arguments for integrating art-making into Research I institutions, and to propose stronger arguments and structures.
    • Co-curricular programming:  To compile information on how co-curricular programming is currently being used in support of arts-integration in the research university, and to explore new co-curricular strategies.
    • Curricular strategies:  To compile information on courses and curricula that currently support the integration of art-making in the research university, and to explore new, potentially scalable  strategies.
    • Research agenda:  To compile information about what we know about the impact of art-making on undergraduates, university communities, and university functioning, and to articulate an agenda for research to expand that knowledge.

Original vision and background statements for Michigan Meeting working groups, and preliminary plans that emerged from the May meeting, can be reviewed here. Immediate action steps recommended by the working groups are summarized here. A summary of short-term goals to support task force work can be viewed here.

ArtsEngine does a spectacular job documenting the meeting; curating the video presentations by the keynote speakers, as well as the full proceedings by the task forces listed above.

I urge everyone who involved in art making, and arts related research in higher education to consider reading the interim report which was just released last week. It contains great advocacy statements and guidance for those of us in this field to re-consider our best practices and metrics for reaching outside “the choir.” Thanks so much to the tireless efforts of our colleagues at ArtsEngine. Additionally, check out the list of reports and articles a source for strategies, research, policy and news. This should be bookmarked and referenced frequently.