From museum space to polling place
In September, professors at the Stamps School of Art & Design and the Ford School worked with local partners to transform the Stenn Gallery at the U-M Museum of Art (525 S. State St.) into the state’s first satellite city clerk’s office on a university campus. Nearly 4,000 students had registered by Oct. 23 and more than 4,000 ballots had been returned. (All photos by Michigan Photography’s Eric Bronson unless otherwise noted.)
U-M Stamps School of Art & Design professors Hannah Smotrich and Stephanie Rowden launched the initiative as part of a multiyear research effort to increase historically low student voter turnout. Passage of Proposal 3 in Michigan’s 2018 election aided their efforts. The proposal added eight new voting policies to the Michigan Constitution, including automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, and no-excuse absentee voting. (Photo: Fernanda Pires.)
Stamps professors Smotrich (left) and Rowden (right) flank Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. “The work we do lies at the intersection of art and design and civic engagement, so we were thrilled that so many people were able to come together to make this happen at UMMA,” Rowden says.
People have the power
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson answers questions of the media as the election hub opens for voting. Christina Olsen, director of UMMA, says: “Art museums, and campus art museums especially, are uniquely positioned to drive national dialogue around the issues that matter most in the world today.”
Just 14 percent of U-M students voted in the 2014 midterm elections, though the number has increased significantly in recent years with the help of campus-wide campaigns like Turn Up Turnout, the Big Ten Voting Challenge, and Rowden and Smotrich’s Creative Campus Voting Project. Forty-four percent of U-M students voted in the 2016 presidential election and 41 percent voted in the 2018 midterms. (Photo: Fernanda Pires.)
It’s that easy
As Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson points out how simple the election hub can make one’s life, City Clerk Jacqueline Beaudry says, “Our hope is that we will continue to collaborate [with UMMA] during even-year November elections in order to create ongoing access for voters at U-M and in Ann Arbor.”
“This was a natural fit. As a community, we have been a leader in student voting rights for many years,” says City Clerk Jacqueline Beaudry. “We are excited to be filling this need for our community.”
Pictured: Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Ann Arbor City Mayor Christopher Taylor, and City Clerk Beaudry.
“Our goal was to make it very clear, easy, and safe for students to vote,” Smotrich says. “We were able to transform a city clerk’s office, which is traditionally a bureaucratic, institutional space, into something that is beautiful and dynamic. We hope that seeing this space will inspire students to vote.” (Photo: Hannah Smotrich.)
Democracy and design
Stamps professors Rowden and Smotrich worked in partnership with Edie Goldenberg, a professor of public policy at the Ford School; UMMA’s Briannon Cierpilowski and James Leija; the U-M Government Relations Office; and the Ann Arbor City Clerk’s Office to secure an office on campus. They also designed the space, which included signage for wayfinding and communications.
Go for it
Offering a prominent gallery space for the satellite office continues a year-long focus on civic duty and engagement for UMMA, which has presented a series of related exhibitions and programs over the last 10 months. It also aligns with plans for U-M’s Democracy and Debate theme semester. (Pictured: Ann Arbor City Clerk Jacqueline Beaudry and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.)
Pass it on
Visitors to the Ann Arbor City Clerk’s Satellite Office at UMMA can register, update a registration address, request a ballot, and vote early through Nov. 2 at 4 p.m.
Open Weekdays, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. and Saturdays 8 a.m.- 4 p.m.
Monday, Nov. 2, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 3, 8 a.m.-8 p.m.