DIA brings art to Ann Arbor

By Paula Friedrich, For the Daily
Published March 17, 2013

Residents may soon notice some unexpected additions to the city landscape as the Detroit Institute of Arts brings seven high-quality reproductions of artwork from its own collection to Ann Arbor to be displayed outdoors.

These temporary installations, which include works by John Singer Sargent and Henri Matisse, are part of the DIA’s “Inside|Out” program, which is now in its fourth year. Paintings will be placed mostly in the Kerrytown and Main Street areas.

Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator, said the open-air gallery will be accompanied by a number of activities and programs, including a “community weekend” that offers Ann Arbor residents free admission and transportation to the DIA on April 20 and 21.

Seagraves said he is also hoping to offer walking tours of the artwork with docents from the DIA as has been done at similar art installations elsewhere.

Art & Design Assistant Prof. Roland Graf said the Inside|Out program has an interesting effect in urban landscapes like Ann Arbor.

“(Inside|Out) creates sometimes very surreal scenes that sometimes almost look like an art installation because it is so unexpected to see a nineteenth-century painting on a brick wall,” Graf said.

Graf said the program allows the DIA to reach an audience it may not have otherwise — he pointed out that he has met students who have never visited the museum.

“It’s almost as if the DIA becomes a cultural broadcaster,” he said. “Instead of broadcasting digital images on the screen, they still believe in the value of the original and that’s why they come up with this high-quality reproduction.”

Ann Arbor residents voted against the public art millage on the November ballot. Seagraves said he does not believe this is indicative of a lack of interest for programs like Inside|Out.

“Obviously there will be some connection (to the art millage) in people’s mind because the public art commission partnered with the DIA to do this program, but there’s no cost to the taxpayers to do this, it’s all funded by Knight Foundation,” Seagraves said.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which promotes innovative journalistic endeavors, also has an arts program that seeks innovative ways to reach and engage audiences for the arts. The artworks will be displayed from April until June.

LSA sophomore Jacob Nathanson, a New York native, said he has not yet visited the DIA since moving to Michigan, but likes the idea of Inside|Out.

“I think (public art is) really important to have, especially in a liberal city like Ann Arbor,” he said. “It just makes a different environment.”