Principles and Guidelines

The University of Michigan strives to extend U-M’s educational mission by building and maintaining a stellar collection of public art. Through the Public Arts Program, we aim to give visual and physical form to the University’s core values, such as the pursuit of understanding, knowledge, and creativity; freedom of speech and expression; respect for diverse viewers and users; and the creation of a stimulating yet safe environment. We are particularly committed to public art that reflects the University’s engagement with the world and evolving priorities as a global leader in higher education.

Because the art is sited in public spaces where many users come together for a variety of purposes, we seek to balance issues of originality and intellectual and visual provocation with a respect for the diverse needs and wants of the greater community. We strive to site works of public art in settings appropriate to their scale, purposes, aesthetics, and materials, and to stimulate a dynamic public art presence on both the University campus and in the city of Ann Arbor, paying particular attention to areas where the city and the University come together.

Click here to see the full version of the Public Art Program’s principles and guidelines (March 2007).


The Public Art Program applies a consistent set of criteria in evaluating works of public art—whether sited permanently or temporarily—that are offered to the University, as well as works that the University or its units proactively seek to add to the public environment. Essential to these criteria are the following:

  • The aesthetic significance of an individual work of public art
  • The significance of the artist or artists
  • The relative uniqueness of the work of art, including factors of originality and authenticity
  • The ethical position occupied by the work of art, including consideration of provenance
  • The contribution an individual work of art can be expected to make to the University’s educational mission, as well as to the existing collection of public art
  • Appropriateness to site, including (for outdoor sites) appropriateness to the site’s adjacent architecture, hardscaping, and landscaping
  • The appropriate use of public resources, including funding, staffing, etc.
  • The University’s ability to assure the proper long-term care of the individual work of public art, including security, conservation, and maintenance
  • The safety of the work of public art, as well as the safety of users interacting with it
  • Where works of art come as donations, the University’s ability to manage effectively the long-term stewardship of donor relationships


Jun Kaneko

Recent Installations



Alexander Liberman

Art Spotlight