YoHA's Arts of Citizenship receives funding for three years

By Jane R. Elgass

ScobeyEfforts to create a community of faculty who are eager to explore the connections and links between the University and the wider surrounding community got a boost earlier this month with the announcement that the Arts of Citizenship program has received three years of funding support from the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR).

The Arts of Citizenship Program was a major initiative within the Year of the Humanities and Arts (YoHA) that culminated with Hillary Rodham Clinton's campus visit in April. YoHA was designed to explore the role of the arts and humanities in civic and community life through a variety of innovative programs.

Program Director David Scobey is excited about the opportunities for "project partnerships" that integrate innovative intellectual work done at the University with practical collaborations in the community.

"The 'culture wars' of the past decade have shown how much Americans invest the arts and humanities with civic importance," Scobey says. "Scholars have done wonderful research into popular culture and public values, but our work often has been distant from the publics we study.

"It is important for a public educational institution like the University to explore and to participate in current debates about culture and citizenship. Doing so gives us the opportunity to build new relationships with our community and create new types of research and teaching," Scobey adds.

Arts of Citizenship has been designated as an "incubator unit," a mechanism through which OVPR is able to "nurture new interdisciplinary activity by helping a nucleus of faculty members find the resources needed to support a novel initiative."

Arts of Citizenship is not a project management program, Scobey is quick to point out, but an intellectual experiment that will bring faculty, students and community members together in new ways.

Scobey, who teaches history and American studies, sees the Arts of Citizenship Program "acting as a magnet to encourage new thinking about the role of the arts and humanities in the community."

This past year, Arts of Citizenship brought distinguished intellectuals, artists, designers and cultural advocates to campus to discuss their work and the public import of the humanities and arts in general.

It also fostered several collaborative projects focused on the reconstruction of the Broadway bridges, including the Students on Site project, made possible by a grant from the state Humanities Council. The project brings together teachers from the U-M, Community High School and Mack School to use the bridges site as a focus for innovative teaching and curriculum.

Students on Site participants will meet this summer in a one-week workshop at the Bentley Historical Library. They will generate ideas for teaching projects in local history, writing, public art and environmental education that will be carried out in partnerships among the three schools in the coming academic year.

Faculty interested in developing programs under the auspices of the Arts of Citizenship Program should call Scobey, 647-4869, or send e-mail to scobey@umich.edu.