UMS announces digital residencies, includes six artist-driven projects to take place over next year

Spektral Quartet. Image credit: Dan Kullman

Spektral Quartet. Image credit: Dan Kullman

The University Musical Society at the University of Michigan has announced its full cohort of Digital Artist Residency artists, each of whom will explore timely themes through an array of new creative projects being developed specifically for the digital frame.

The six artist-led projects will connect artists to audiences in brand new ways, from rarely visible behind-the-scenes creative development to presentations of finished works, some of which will be experienced digitally and some, eventually, to in-person audiences.

The projects will be presented in various stages of creative development over the course of the next year. Participating artists will also connect to audiences, including students, faculty and the broader community, through informal conversations, participatory experiences, discussions about the creative process, and other activities.

The UMS Digital Artist Residencies will launch with two events that feature the artists in conversation, at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 29, and noon Wednesday, Sept. 30. The events will allow viewers to meet each artist and learn more about their residencies, how they are responding to current events, and how that translates into creating art that can be experienced in both the digital and live performance spaces. Conversations will be available on demand after the initial live events.

"As we face unprecedented challenges in presenting live, in-person work by artists, I’m absolutely thrilled that we will be investing in and working with this select group of artists over the course of the next year, to develop new work and to invite audiences into the process,” said UMS President Matthew VanBesien.

"Since our venues closed in March, we have been fully committed to exploring ways that we can continue to connect with our audiences and continue to support artists in their creative development. With this program, which is funded in part by a group of generous UMS board and board emeritus supporters, we are able to continue that work on both fronts.”

The participants in the Digital Artist Residencies cohort include:

Sept. 29

  • Actor Wendell Pierce , whose residency will explore social justice, anti-racism, and the Black canon of performance work. Among the most ambitious of Pierce’s projects will be the production, filming and release of a digital presentation of the recent American play, "Some Old Black Man” by James Anthony Tyler, which explores race in America through the lens of interpersonal and intergenerational relationships.


  • Flint-based musician and activist Tunde Olarniran , who will activate a dynamic residency that features artmaking across disciplines, community collaboration and co-creation, emergent technologies and video animation. Through the introduction of four singles from Olaniran’s forthcoming full-length album, audiences will be invited to participate in the creative process using building blocks developed by Olaniran and a cohort of creatives, remixing them to create new artistic outputs.

    Choreographer Cleo Parker Robinson , who is celebrating the 50th anniversary of her Denver-based company Cleo Parker Robinson Dance. Robinson, will document, in collaboration with award-winning filmmaker Alan Domínguez, the creative process behind "The Four Journeys,” a new work that examines the confluence of culture in Mexico from its diverse indigenous heritage to more recent influences from Europe, Africa and Asia. Audiences will get to know Robinson and her legacy as a Black artmaker, choreographer and social activist, and as an active creator and collaborator whose current work leans into multiculturalism and intersectionality.

    Lebanese composer and pianist Tarek Yaman i and the Chicago-based Spektral Quartet , who will join forces to explore the junctures between Western classical, jazz and traditional Arab music, resulting in a new, evening-length commission. The residency brings these innovative artists together for the first time, allowing audiences to join on a journey of discovery, improvisation and collaboration encompassing both traditional and contemporary performing arts from both Western traditions and the Arab diaspora.

    Performance artist Brian Lobel , who, along with artists Gweneth-Ann Rand, Allyson Devenish and Naomi Felix, will playfully interrogate the idea of failure in art, in life, in public and in private through an extension of his 2015 performance piece, "24 Italian Songs and Arias.” Audiences will be invited to upload recordings of themselves singing from the collection of well-known songs after which Lobel’s work was named, ultimately curating a uniquely crowdsourced digital performance archive. The residency will also examine bodily experience, illness, marginalization, and vulnerability.

    Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato , who will use song as a lens through which to process and navigate the human experience in relation to current events and global concerns in real time. A series of videos featuring DiDonato singing and in dialogue with people from a variety of different backgrounds will be the primary focus of a residency that casts a spotlight on the healing power of calling on great art from the past centuries to pass through challenging events of the present day. Expected themes such as grief, community, unity, patriotism and nature will surely factor in as topics unveiling themselves in our current headlines. DiDonato’s digital project is being developed in collaboration with Princeton University Concerts.

    Both events will be streamed live on YouTube and Facebook and will be available on demand at UMS Digital Artist Residencies immediately after the live conversation.

    The Digital Artist Residencies are made possible with support from lead presenting sponsors Michigan Engineering and Tim and Sally Petersen. Supporting sponsors include Julia Darlow and John O’Meara, Anne and Paul Glendon, and Joe Malcoun and Caitlin Klein. Patron sponsors include Stephen and Rosamund Forrest, Beverley and Gerson Geltner, Susan and Richard Gutow, and James and Nancy Stanley. The residencies were also funded in part by UMS Sustaining Directors, Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


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