On Tuesday nights, the Michigan Union Underground is not just home to Subway and Wendy’s. Nestled snugly between Magic Wok and the computer consoles is Arts Break, the crafty collaboration between University Union Arts and Programs and a group of students who have glue and paint on the brain.

Beth Dykstra
Engineering juniors Keri Nicholson and Carrie Rodak, along with LSA sophomore Danielle Hawkins, pick out
paints used to make coasters at Arts Break. (AMY DRUMM/Daily)
Beth Dykstra
LSA sophomore Ted Pixley and LSA junior Alissa Talley paint coasters at Arts Break in the Michigan Union
Tuesday night. (AMY DRUMM/Daily)

Every Tuesday night from 7 to 11 p.m., Arts Break sets up shop. It has developed quite a following in the last five years of its existence; roughly 100 participants arrive each week. Completely funded by the University, students need bring little more than an arty attitude.

The craft varies from week to week, as an e-mail goes out on Sunday nights to tell frequent attendees what the upcoming project is, as well as suggestions for what students may want to bring, aside from the essentials such as paint, tissue paper, glitter, ribbon and découpage.

This past week, for example, as students prepared for coaster decorating, “we recommended that people print out pictures of their friends to decorate their projects with,” said Program Assistant and LSA sophomore Jessica Cristopher.

This year alone, Arts Break has livened up living rooms around campus with innovative and clever crafts. One week, Arts Break provided artists with vinyl records with a mirror in the center; students were encouraged to detail the vinyl with glitter or song lyrics. Other crafts have included puff painting T-shirts and bulletin boards. Pencil boxes also rank high on the list of favorites.

Some projects are thematic and time-sensitive, such as the photo albums on the Tuesday before spring break. To welcome in spring in the upcoming weeks, Arts Break will be providing terra cotta pots to decorate, complete with flower seeds to plant. Next week, the project will be peace flags.

“It’s a good stress reliever, and it adds a little break from academic life,” said LSA sophomore Bill Couch as he detailed his project.

Many participants agree that something is necessary to spice up what LSA sophomore Sarah Johnson called her “monotonous schedule.”

As a participant in the Big/Little Sibs program, Johnson thought this would be a fun time to show her nine-year-old Little Sib Mariana Dicko a side of college life.

To make each project a little more special, Cristopher and her co-assistant, LSA sophomore Kate Longstreet, decided to try something different this year.

“We always have the basics, but this is the first semester we have held supplies for specific projects,” Cristopher said. The pair had scrapbooking stickers for scrapbook week and will have buttons just for the terra pots in the upcoming weeks.

It may sound elementary, but art can also be stress-reducing and mind-bending. “I learned origami here,” said Agatha Clemens, an LSA senior who added that she would rather “do this instead of take credits.”

University Health Services, in their 101 list of was to alleviate stress and academic pressure, suggests relaxing with a colorful art project. The list also includes being with friends and listening to music, all on the agenda at Arts Break.

Arts Break is also an ideal way to save on holidays and birthdays. “I usually give mine away as gifts to people,” said Engineering junior Keri Nicholson. “Plus, it gives me something to do on Tuesdays.”

“It’s usually not a successful Arts Break until you have paint or glitter on your hands or shirt somewhere,” Clemens said.

So dive in, get your hands dirty and stop for some orange chicken on the way out; Arts Break is just that easy.

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