18 August 2011

A Blooming Idea

Michigan Idea doesn't exist yet.  Wait - does it?  I guess it depends on what your definition of "is" is, and not wanting this to devolve into some sort of political or ontological porkbarreling, let's say that it almost does.

What Michigan Idea will be, when it exists, is an archive: a record of interdisciplinary work taking place on the University of Michigan's North Campus - what one recent College of Engineering dean referred to as "the Renaissance Campus".  That title is not a stretch when you consider that Music, Theatre, Dance, Art, Design, Architecture, Urban Planning, and every kind of Engineering you can think of is all housed less than a mile from each other (and more than a mile from the rest of campus!).  We're a simmering hotbed of creation up here, and it would be great if there were a documenting entity.

Enter ArtsEngine, the brainchild (and only joint initiative, so far) of the four North Campus deans: a non-academic office that facilitates collaboration between the units and helps to increase the transparency of each to the others.  Lots of buzzwords?  Maybe.  But imagine how exciting it could be to a cartographer to know that an engineer and a musician figured out how to set the Michigan coastline to music.  (That really happened!)  Or how funny it was when Dr. Duderstadt's office was constantly interrupted by motion-sensitive metallic fire conceived and executed by an engineer, an artist and an architect.  ArtsEngine, in turn, is sponsoring a student group: Michigan Idea.

Michigan Idea's purpose and projects have been unclear from the start: not from lack of enthusiasm, but more from lack of being able to describe both adequately to themselves and in turn to others.  I inherited the sort-of-group and have decided to make it my own personal project: to crystallize its mission and cement the foundation of its continuing legacy.

More on MIdea as it evolves.

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