Time for some summer reading!

Welcome to arts, ink., where our student artists and writers are given a forum to illuminate the U-M student experience through art. Take a few minutes this summer to sit back, relax, and look back on some of our favorite posts from the last year by perusing the Summer 2024 Reading List tag!

If you’re a U-M student interested in becoming a weekly contributor, there may be a position available to get paid for your work. We review applications and hire new bloggers twice a year, in September and January. Read more about Blogging Opportunities here!
Email us at arts@umich.edu with questions.

The Indian Artist, Final Year: Goodbyes and New Beginnings…

I hope that you are all doing well and I want to congratulate you all on completing yet another year (for my student readers out there)! Many of you, including myself, graduated and will start a brand new chapter of your lives. I just graduated with a bachelors in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology with a double minor in Art & Design and Sociology of Health & Medicine. I will now be moving on to medical school this summer. It is incredible to say those words, I’m not sure it’s really hit me yet.

Looking back at these past four years, I am so grateful for all of the opportunities, guidance, mentorship, and love that I have received. I have failed and fallen many times, but each time, because of the strength and confidence everyone in my life has helped to instill in me, I have been able to stand up.

I do not have much to say besides thank you. Thank you so much to everyone who has stood by me on my journey. It has been my lifelong dream to become a physician, working to break down healthcare barriers, working to save lives, working to serve other humans every single day. Though my journey in medicine has just begun, I now can see the light at the end of the tunnel assuring me that I will one day be Dr. Riya Aggarwal, MD. What a privelege.

Art has been one of my largest supporters and the truest love of my life. Even if I went a year without touching a brush, paint, or even a pencil, just seeing my canvases sitting in my room, my colors and pallets adorning the shelves, or my countless pens and pencils strewn about, I felt a sense of comfort and safety. Reminding myself of my creativity, of my artistic capabilities, has given me the confidence to face many battles unrelated to the world of art. I am so grateful to be an artist. I am so grateful to have this part of my life and I promise to make sure that I never take it for granted.

To all of the artists, newly-minted graduates, longing creators, and hopefuls out there, never forget your passions. It is so easy to get caught up in the work, in the day-to-day of the achievement culture; however, it is the authentic parts of yourself, the parts that you yearn for at the end of a long day, the parts that shine when nobody is looking, that are the most important. It is your own definition of art that will teach you the most about you. It is through my art that I have grown the most, found the most solace, and cultivated the most confidence. This feeling is irreplaceable and inimitable. So harness it, chase it, and watch as its effects permeate into the rest of your life.

Once again, thank you so much to anybody who has ever read a post of mine, my family, mentors, professors, friends, and arts, ink., for giving me endless support, encouragement, and unwavering love. I would not be where I am and who I am without you.

Signing off,

Riya Aggarwal

The Indian Artist, Final Year: Leela’s Braids

Good evening everyone! I hope that you are all doing well! I know that I have been a bit MIA but I wanted to come back with a post about a project that has been my pride and joy this past year. On Thursday, April 26th, Pages for Pediatrics at University of Michigan sent out its first children’s book for publication and production. I received our new books in hand on May 2nd! As I mentioned in my last post, I completed illustrated this book from cover to cover. It was an incredible labor of love and I learned so much throughout the process.

I have been doing art for as long as I can remember. However, I didn’t start calling myself an artist until senior year of high school or even early college. There is a certain responsibility that an artist holds in my opinion, the job of navigating visual media in a way that is respectful, striking, and even controversial. I have done a really good job of challenging myself within the confines and boundaries of my comfort zone. Don’t get me wrong, I have continuously found ways of pushing myself, but it wasn’t until Leela’s Braids that I was confronted with something that I had NEVER done before in a medium I knew absolutely NOTHING about. It was humbling.

Teaching myself the ins and outs of digital art and children’s book creation was an incredible process. I still have so much to learn, but it has given me so much confidence. As a future physician, it is my dream to complete write and illustrate a series of children’s books discussing different topics in medicine and various diseases. For any of you who are interested in or have even considered writing and/or illustrating your own children’s book, I would say to absolutely go for it! It can be very harrowing but there are so many wonderful free resources out there and in this day and age, the internet is the best classroom. If you are interested, please also feel free to reach out to me!

I want to thank all of my readers for the wonderful support all of these years. Without this blog, I may not have had the courage to take on this project and many before it. Please feel free to reach out to me or comment if you have any questions, concerns, or thoughts! If you would like to see my work, please feel free to check out my website and follow me on Instagram.



Instagram: @riya_aggarwal.art

Website: https://theindianartist.weebly.com/

The Art of Involvement #5

Using his poetry to advocate for Palestine is Yahya Ashour’s persistent mission as he tours from college to college across the United States. He grew up in the Gaza strip and has family there now. His pain and struggle is ever present, and he admits the darkness that completely overtook him following Israeli attacks following October 7th was crippling and is something he has to process everyday. This deep sadness that was at first paralyzing is now the force that drives him to continue traveling endlessly, sharing his art, and advocating for his people.

Ashour visited the University of Michigan-Dearborn in February. I remember sitting down in the auditorium as he set up, scanning the audience and passively noting how this was one of the first campus events that I saw such a diverse age range attending. Ashour gently spread a keffiyeh atop the podium. And then he read.

He had several poems to share, all with a clear, steady voice. He discussed dreams haunted by survivor’s guilt, life among rubble, and the abandonment of Palestinians in Gaza as neighboring nations looked on. Each poem was phenomenal in its craft, but the audience hesitated to applaud. How do you clap for someone’s suffering, laid out in front of you, eloquent as it may be?

Art is in many ways a way of breaking yourself open and giving your vulnerability to the world to digest. Sometimes, our appreciation of other’s skills in relaying their pain makes me feel rotten inside. I feel like I am intruding on the complex suffering of another human being. But from art, from expression, comes a greater understanding of the world and motivation to change it. 

It also gives space to conversation. Through audience interaction, I met the man that housed Ashour and helped him through the lows of the months following the beginning of Israel’s brutal retaliation. I met Palestinian elders that expressed their pride for Ashour’s dedication and heart in speaking for their people. 

One of the most key components of this conversation, however, was the critique Ashour laid out. Having spent extensive time in Michigan and some time in Dearborn specifically, Ashour delivered direct, relevant complaints to the audience about how he expected more origanization and action from Dearborn, known for being a heavily Arab American populated city. Ashour also spoke to the United States at large, to the masses of people going through the motions of life without a care for those being slaughtered with American money and arms.

Certainly, not everyone avoids despair over this genocide. Since November, I feel like I scroll through a terrifying display of war, bombing, death, mutilation, and starvation each day and shut down, unable to process the monstrous inhumanity. But I let myself be paralyzed by it too often, and end up doing nothing but engaging with them online or ranting about the genocide to friends.

When I thoughtlessly asked how one rose out of despair to take action, he responded, “I am not the person to ask. I am in despair… Perhaps you need to despair,” he commented, likely thinking of the many, many Americans that go through life with a shield of apathy and a cutting sword of unjustified helplessness.

There is a desperate need for active morals instead of default “neutrality”, which I feel more often than not describes ignorance that persists through a helplessness we grant ourselves, or else an avoidance of the pain that needs to be addressed. We think that reposting on social media infographics and Palestinian art is enough to assuage our moral failings, but this is supplementary at best. We think that we are only responsible for ourselves, that our morality is self contained, while our elected leadership continues to make decisions that cause death after death.

It is all too easy to despair, but Ashour tries to call us into action and not just well meaning empty promises. We have more agency and power than we know, particularly when we organize. We need strategy, which is what those who implement oppression excel at.

Now I see college encampments across the globe and I am proud. I see how they engage art through poetry readings and posters in a way that has much more meaning in person, in community. They are acting on the art as opposed to just consuming it, which reflects Ashour’s belief of art being a motivating core of the Free Palestine Movement. I know these actions have brought Palestinians and Ashour some hope. There is still much to do. I pray that more come forward and continue in allyship to liberate others, maintaining the lessons learned in organizing and effecting real change.

So as we engage with art in all of its thematic and political allure, we must remember that it is more than just entertainment. Poetry has been a lifeline for me, and in it I find humanity inseparable to a call to action. In suffering, I find the urge to soothe suffering. In joy, I find the desire to create and protect that joy for others. Art is survival. May we continue to create and recite and share and act until we are all free.

Buy an ebook of Yahya Ashour’s poetry here. Proceeds go to helping his family get out of Gaza.
Follow Yahya Ashour to learn more about his work and how you can help Palestinians


Wolverine Stew: Travel Log

There was always going to be a list

First wandering far past downtown to

A bus stop where once I walked westward with

Mud-caked boots and a rain-soaked umbrella

And two friends, all doing our best to flee

The Hash Bash haze awaiting us

And at that point I made a goal

To cover every cardinal direction

And see how far I could wander

East had long been done, a loop

That sent me past the first flowers,

Mannequins, ant colonies, and mourning doves

Of a spring with five false starts

But one always welcome all the same

Travelling together, time spent speculating

About what makes a “good” scary

And in between my trips I stopped

For a moment amidst tabletop memories

Or going through the graveyard, daisies blooming

Or an overlook of Shakespearean summers

Or a last time wandering the Arb for me

And the first for another

Before I made my way north, by bus, by foot

Into that setting sun with turkeys in the trees

Deer in the dark, raccoons by the road

Each a reminder of my final walks

As I took in the same stars

And finally, I decided to

Replace that chance to

Take a southward route

With a carnival, one more roll of dice

And a “see you later” to

Friends I go through the witchlight with

Because I’ll be back to finish my goal

Of four ways to wander

And start a few more trails anew

After all, I remember the paths

And the ones I walked them with

S3 Scribble #24: Live Forever

“Maybe I just wanna fly, wanna live, I don’t wanna die,”

Welcome to the final Song Scribbles with Sydney. It’s a bittersweet time. Two days ago, I graduated from the University of Michigan. Yesterday, I moved back home for the summer. Now, as I write this blog post from my childhood bedroom, I can’t believe how time has flown by. While I’m thrilled to have had such a wonderful graduation (especially after my high school graduation being canceled due to the pandemic), I’m also feeling a sense of loss.

“Maybe I just wanna breathe, maybe I just don’t believe,”

My friends and I are going to go do great things all over the place, which is wonderful, but I’m going to miss living near all of them. I’m lucky to be headed to get my master’s degree in New York City, a city where a few of my friends will also be living, but I know it won’t be the same as Ann Arbor. I’m very excited for my next steps, but I also know that I’ll always look back fondly on my time at the University of Michigan.

“Maybe you’re the same as me,”

I’ve learned and changed so much over the past four years. I’m far more open-minded, vulnerable, and happy than I ever remember being. I’ve found friends that feel like family, and Ann Arbor feels like home. When I started college, I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to form this level of friendship, but I’ve formed several friendships that I’m confident will last far beyond my college years. How fortunate am I to have such a fabulous support system? How lucky am I to have had something so great that I know I’ll miss it for years to come?

“We see things they’ll never see.”

My undergraduate years may be over, but the memories and relationships will last a lifetime. I can’t wait until the next time my friends and I get together, and I’m excited to see how gamedays feel as an alum. While I may be leaving Michigan, I know that Michigan will never leave me. As I embark on this next chapter in my life, I will do so with confidence and positivity – the same way I approach every other challenge I face. Thank you for everything, Ann Arbor. Writing these blogs and creating an archive of my college experiences through Song Scribbles is something I will be grateful for for years to come. It truly is great to be a Michigan Wolverine – Go Blue forever!

“You and I are gonna live forever.”

Listen to Live Forever by Oasis here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=485CSGur7YE