Take a Break for Art During Finals

Final exams. The dreadful words are enough to send college students everywhere into a state of distress. While in high school, the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas often meant holiday decorations, festive food, and snow days. In college, however, this period of time is typically chaotic, with the end of classes yielding a pile of final essays, tests, and projects. With sleep deprivation and increasing stress, you may be left feeling overwhelmed. During a time that can be physically, emotionally, and mentally taxing, it’s important to remember to take care of yourself. One way to do so? Take a break for art. Here are a few ideas for managing college life pressures:

  1. Listen to some of your favorite music.

Music can have a huge impact on your mood and emotions. Upbeat music can set an energetic and positive tone, while music with a slower tempo can be calming and used for relaxation. Plan periodic breaks when studying and take a few moments to listen to your favorite tunes to destress.

  1. Write a thank you note.

Focusing on thoughts of gratitude can help put you in a positive mindset, and writing a card or letter is an excellent way to express appreciation for someone’s help. Thank a friend or parent for their support throughout the semester. Maybe even thank a professor who has had an impact on you (though consider the best time to give it to them).

  1. Draw or paint a picture.

Regardless of how “good” or “bad” you may be, drawing and painting can be good ways to reduce stress. Drawing and painting hold some of the benefits of meditation, and when you’re finished being engrossed in your art, you might have a more focused mindset to tackle your schoolwork or other problems.

  1. Jot down your thoughts, stresses, or ideas.

Consider taking a pen to paper in documenting goals, daily events, or feelings. If you feel guilty about taking time away from studying, make a list of what needs to be accomplished and use it as a to-do list.

  1. Color.

While the adult coloring book trend seems to have dwindled in the past few years, coloring is still a great relaxation activity. Coloring involves both logic and creativity. It can provide a distraction from stress and be a form of meditation for some people.

  1. Rearrange or clean your room.

Tired of your usual environment? Consider rearranging some furniture, getting rid of old things, or adding new decorations (with permission from your roommate, of course). Put up positive affirmations, photos, or artwork to contribute to a comfortable atmosphere. Cleaning can be a way take your mind off of schoolwork while still being productive, while rearranging can appeal to your more creative side.

  1. Play around with playdough.

Grab some clay from the store or make your own playdough for an emotional outlet. The squishy, malleable dough is a highly sensory medium that can be used for unleashing tension. For additional stress relief, you can add essential oils for some aromatherapy.

These are just some of many simple endeavors that could provide relaxation during a very stressful time. Whether it’s artistic or not, consider taking a break from studying once in awhile to recoup and destress.

Technology Influencing Art

Throughout history technology has influenced art in different ways.  It was used as a medium, like photography and movies. It is also used as an enhancer, like photoshop and video editing.  Technology is also featured in art, with paintings of phones and street lamps. As technology progresses, it becomes easier for all people to use it.  The biggest example for most millenials, including myself, used microsoft paint at one point to make their own art.

Computers have influenced art in a very profound way.  The internet is the biggest factor of this, but it is not the only thing you can do on a computer for art.  The biggest example that I can think of, and that I personally use is microsoft paint. I would spend hours on paint making circles and coloring them in different colors to make an abstract painting.  Another example of non-internet art is photoshop and photo editing. It is very common for people to take their photos and change them to black and white or putting another filter on it. It also used to be a fun past-time to photoshop celebrities into pictures and onto funny backgrounds.

The internet is a big proponent of making art more tangible for the public.  Now people can look up famous artists from the past and present. With a quick Google search one can find out the personal information and art styles of famous artists throughout time.  This means that art can now be seen in more places than just a museum. Schools take advantage of this when teaching students about art. Now they can pull up photos and video tours of large and expensive museums that they can not afford to take their students to.

Social media in particular allows people to be more creative themselves.  It creates a forum for people to express themselves by posting their art online.  Whether that be art that they did not create using technology, like drawings, or art created by technology, like photos.  Social media also allows people to learn how to create art. The biggest example of this is Pinterest, where there are thousands of DIY art projects for whatever you could possibly need.  Youtube also has a lot of DIY content for people to learn whatever they need. I personally use Pinterest on a regular basis for DIY ideas and art projects.

Overall technology, computers specifically, have made art more accessible to the public.  This has helped make people more creative and learn more about art technique and art history.  The internet pushes people to explore their creative sides and to try new things that they never thought they could do before.

A Travesty Against Intellect

“Philosophy is the childhood of the intellect, and a culture that tries to skip it will never grow up.”

–Thomas Nagel

Perhaps this quote does not lend itself to the interpretation that I will now transpose upon it, but it is the invocation upon which these musings are built, so I will include it nonetheless. Being in college as and English and Philosophy major is such a strange thing. It is freeing and exhilarating to be immersed in subjects which I was told, or at least systematically conditioned to believe, were useless. But somehow studying them more has not made them more “useful” to me. I do not think they would even be “useful” if I were to go on and become the world’s greatest contemporary philosopher or the next bestselling author or the most sought-out keynote speaker. The thing with these subjects is that they are by their very nature inconclusive and therefore hold no real “usefulness”. Useful things have an end goal, they have a purpose which can be perfectly traced like the mechanical parts in an IKEA instruction manual. But english and philosophy will only allow you to bask in the glorious and magnificent enquiry of human existence. That is practically useless.

They both seem to be two wildly selfish disciplines. They aim to satisfy insatiable and snowballing curiosity. To want to understand the world for yourself holds no innate goodness unless you intend to act upon that knowledge. There is no moral worth in knowledge unless it is applied. And so philosophy and english, for me, as Nagel said, are both the “childhood of my intellect”. They are my selfish vices to inconclusive understandings and problems I will always flirt with but never love.

But Mr. Nagel, you are wrong about one thing– if we want to “grow up”, we cannot altogether rid ourselves of the childhoods of our philosophy. We must live both as adults and as children, as vice and virtue, in order to be complete. To be either only adult or only child is a travesty against intellect.

Maps as Art

If you handed me a printed map from a rest stop, I’m not sure I would be confident in telling you which direction to go. To me, physical maps are geographical puzzles you shove into the back of your car’s glove compartment. In the past, I never thought of a map as beautiful, let alone as an example of art; however, this perspective was challenged after a field trip to the Hatcher Graduate Library.

Instead of the normal lecture, my digital research class was treated to a brief tour of the Shapiro Undergraduate Library and Hatcher Graduate Library. Out of the numerous books, resources, and study spots, what caught my attention the most was something I would have never expected: maps. I was mesmerized by the Unique Perspectives: Maps from Tokugawa & Meiji Japan exhibit, which was on display until October 30th. While slightly faded, an array of swirling colors and intricate details captured my attention, and I found myself wandering back to the exhibit after class.

For a moment, I forgot about the stresses of essays or homework and was whisked away to another time and another place. Triangular mountains and waving rivers somehow made me feel at peace. While granting me historical facts, these displays stretched my imagination. All the lines and jagged squiggles weren’t meaningless marks on paper, but places, history, and art. I daresay the mere size and grandeur of some of the maps resembled priceless paintings. As someone studying Japanese through LSA’s Residential College program, I was also drawn to the uniqueness and artistry of the symbols. I imagined shiny black ink caressing the paper in gentle strokes, forming different characters with something important to say.

In moments I saw maps – and art – in a new light. I found myself no longer cringing at the series of puzzling lines, but captivated by the complexity and splendor the maps held. Now, I’m not educated on traditional map making rules, nor am I an analytic art critic; it’s possible my perspective of the display simply reveals my ignorance about maps. However, I viewed even the most simple of maps as anything but stereotypical or boring. This is my first blog post, and if a small trip to the library prompted me to see maps in a new light, I can’t wait to explore what other artistic treasures are in store during my journey here at the University of Michigan.


Technology in Entertainment

New technology can change an entire industry.  In the entertainment industry, the invention of the camera, and then the video camera changed the way that people consume there entertainment.  The most popular form of visual entertainment used to be plays, until the video camera came along and people became fascinated by movies. Technology has changed the way that people consume media throughout time.

For a long time the most popular form of live entertainment was plays, and operas.  People would go to a theater to have a day of entertainment of long plays by Shakespeare or other famous playwrights.  Once the video camera was introduced, plays and operas declined. The general public was fascinated with the new medium of entertainment that the video camera brought.  Plays and operas eventually found their niche audience, and have stayed in the spotlight. The niche group that plays and operas found was an elite group of people. Plays were for the highest class of people and not very accessible the general public.  This stigma is still attached to plays and operas, but it is smaller than it once was. Now plays will travel around the world so that everyone has an opportunity to enjoy their work.

Video cameras were a huge development in the entertainment industry.  Movies became very popular for the entire public, not just one demographic.  Movies popularity grew with the number of movie theaters that were added around the world.  Movies were much more accessible than plays were because people only had to travel to their local movie theater and not the nearest performance theater.  Movies were also much less expensive than plays so all types of people had the opportunity to enjoy them. With the innovations of video cameras also kept movies in the limelight.  From silent films to speaking films, then from black and white to color, and then the video quality continually improving, and finally with the introduction of the 3D movie. These innovations kept the movies new and exciting for everyone.  The theater didn’t have as much innovations as movies, which could contribute to why its popularity did not grow like the popularity of movies did.


The University of Michigan is a large campus composed of many buildings with diverse purposes.  While the majority of the buildings on campus are used for lectures and discussions, some are there for everyone-even non university students- to use.  A good example of these is the many museums that the University has on campus.

This most popular museum on campus is the University of Michigan Museum of Art, or better known as UMMA.  Art museums are common throughout the world.  Some art museums are specific to a type or subsection of art, for example photography or sculptures. Major cities often have multiple art museums of different sizes.  Chicago has dozens of art museums, the two most popular being the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Apart from that, most of the Universities have their own art museums as well.  College art museums tend to be smaller than the others that are found in big cities.

Another popular museum at the University of Michigan is the Museum of Natural History.  The museum has exhibits that show dinosaur bones and the process of evolution. Just like art museums, there are natural history museums in most of the big cities throughout the world.  Unlike art museums, there is generally one big natural history museum per city, this could be because natural history is not up to interpretation like art is. Most of the natural history museums have the same general information with different bones and animal exhibits to show the history of that area or others in the world.  These different bones and exhibits are what make each natural history museum unique.

The University of Michigan has an archeology museum that showcases artifacts from places in history like bowls and other artifacts that people of the past used to use.  Archeology museums are more uncommon than art and natural history museums. Some very large natural history museums have an archeology section in the museum that will give guests a small taste of how people of the past used to live.  Full archaeology museums are just larger versions of the small sections in natural history museums.

The University of Michigan has a Museum of Dentistry.  This is somewhat unique, most cities do not have a dentistry museum.  Museums of trades and specific events and places are common all over the world.  These types of museums have a niche audience for people who are very interested in the topic that the museum spotlights.  For example: the Museum of Dentistry at the University of Michigan is at the School of Dentistry at the University. So this museum has its audience of people that would enjoy the museum right on campus.

Museums are wonderful places to find to new interests and to learn about a variety of topics.  There are so many different categories of museums to learn about, and small museums are great to harvest that curiosity.  College museums are great to investigate topics on a small level and form curiosities that one can apply and go to larger museums to continue looking at and discovering their interests.  The museums at the University of Michigan are no different. People should utilize them and further their interest in a variety of things from dinosaurs to paintings.