Art Biz with Liz: A Final Semester and Farewell

I received the email from Joe on April 7th: “Wednesday, May 4th will be the official LAST DAY to post your column!”

No biggie, I thought at the time. May 4th was still nearly a month away. I had multiple weeks to write more posts about the arts before I graduated and went on my merry way. But life grew too busy. Finals season began at that same time future plans were being made, and there was no time to catch my breath before the series of graduation ceremonies hit. Before I knew it, I landed here, on May 4th, to say my goodbye to arts, ink. and a huge part of my life at Michigan.

I have a million things to say and one post to articulate them. Part of me isn’t ready to post this piece, either, because it’s the last one. The very end. When I told people about my writing endeavors here at the university, I used to refer to my writings with arts, ink. as “silly little blog posts about art,” which were in stark contrast to the seriousness of academic writing or my other work at the Michigan Daily and in literary magazines. But in a way, as discussed in a previous post, my work at arts, ink. has also been a time capsule. I didn’t always dedicate the amount of time and energy to them as I wish I had, but it’s neat to have been able to churn out weekly writings across the span of four school years. Looking back, it’s also been nice to become involved with the arts in numerous ways. I’ll spare you from the extensive trip down memory lane, but I’ll close out with some of the artistic feats I’ve been involved with this past semester.

Part I: Writing

I’ve always loved to write, but as time went on, I found it increasingly difficult to make myself sit down and write on my own accord. The University of Michigan has been a blessing in its plethora of opportunities in this sense, but as a creative writing & literature major, I found myself lacking in experience compared to my peers. I used to think it was a blessing to be “well-rounded” in interests and pursuits, but this proved to be challenging once I had to pick a major (and thus limit myself in what I learned from that point on). I can say, however, that as much as I’ve had doubts about my majors, my abilities, and myself throughout college, I’m proud of the work I’ve created in regard to my two senior honors theses, which earned high honors and highest honors.

If you’ve been reading my posts throughout the past year, you may have noticed my (potentially annoying) mentioning of my honors theses. This was never meant to be a brag or complaint but rather commentary on something that took up much of my time and focus the past year and a half. People often told me I was crazy for writing two theses (one for each of my majors), but doing so seemed like the natural culmination of my studies and time at U-M. They allowed me to challenge myself while narrowing in on specific subjects of interest. For my creative writing & literature major, specifically, I wanted to challenge myself in writing a longer piece of work. The disciplined yet supportive structure of writing an honors thesis allowed me to do so, and I ended up with a longer novella at 135 pages.

Since these posts are all about the arts, I’ll focus on my creative writing thesis. When I think about the sort of person I wanted to connect to my writing, why the story is important, and what I hoped people would get out of it, there are several things that came to mind. My novella is a coming-of-age story centered on complicated family dynamics, but it also speaks to culture and identity. The main character, Christi, is a mixed Chinese-Filipino American whose father is white and mother is an immigrant from the Philippines, which resembles my situation. Growing up, I loved the young adult genre, but I didn’t find many stories that included the main character with an identity like mine. There are many layers to being a mixed Asian American, and when Christi visits her mother’s homeland, she is challenged with all sorts of inner turmoil surrounding identity and culture that accompany the central storyline. Christi’s perspective when she visits the Philippines is often ignorant yet candid. The teenage viewpoint offers an interesting means to express culture shock and family conflict. Overall, I didn’t want to write a story simply for representation, but I am hoping that setting the story in the Philippines yet from the point of view of a young American can engage readers with a different place/culture in a way that’s accessible and relatable.

As previously mentioned, I’m interested in a variety of subjects, which is great in granting me different lenses, perspectives, and experiences to inform my writing. I’ll admit, however, that being stretched out across different academic disciplines means I don’t practice writing nearly as much as I should or as many of my peers do. I’ve struggled with writer’s block and self-discipline in the past, so it was interesting to approach a project with such high expectations for myself despite a limited timeframe. I consistently produced 5-10 pages of new content each week for a semester and a half, which I’ve never been able to do before. There was a lot of crappy writing, and much of it ended up being cut, but simply getting content on the page was the first step toward getting a whole draft together. In the past, I would always get bogged down with edits, whereas with my thesis I didn’t really have that option if I wanted to finish it in time. That would be my advice to others wanting to write a novella/novel – write! You can get trapped by constantly editing/revising, but you can always do that after you have more content to work on. There’s still a lot of work to be done on it, but it would be amazing if I could revise my thesis and turn it into a novel one day. Books have always served as an escape for me, and I hope that one day, my writing can have a positive impact on someone else.

Part II: Music

On the morning of April 30th, I strolled past the hoard of graduates lined up outside the Big House until I reached the designated “Glee Club Check-In” sign. Once inside Michigan Stadium, a select number of members from the Men’s and Women’s Glee Clubs stood in the center of the field on a circular stage. Underneath a cloudy sky, our fingertips numbed in the cold as we waited for the agonizing ten minutes to pass before the opening procession and cue to sing occurred. As dreary as the atmosphere seemed, however, I’d do anything to go back in time to experience what came next.

Graduating was cool and all, but singing “The Star Spangled Banner” in the Big House and hearing the applause from thousands of people was magical. I already miss the “sisterhood” of “song and strength” I was once skeptical of, but I hope to always cherish the feelings of excitement and gratitude I had on graduation day. These emotions encompass how I feel about my time at U-M in general. I could make this post even longer by discussing the bell towers or concerts that have also contributed to my music experience here at the university, but I’ll leave it at that.

Part III: Sculpture

Even though my academic and career goals shifted away from the arts, I always made it a point to still keep them in my life. I never took fewer than 16 credits in a given semester, yet I still couldn’t take all the classes I wanted to or found interesting. There just wasn’t the time. I knew from the very start, however, that I wanted to take some sort of visual arts class during my senior year. I had already taken drama courses and music courses as electives, but I really wanted to learn more about painting or sculpture.

I am so, so happy I did. RCARTS 270 with Raymond Wetzel was one of the best classes I took at U-M. I learned a lot about working with different materials and tools while having tons of fun in the process (wow, homework in a college class can be enjoyable!). I worked with materials such as wood, cement, and clay to create a variety of mixed-media art works, and I learned different techniques for casting, constructing, and assembling sculptures. I’ll end this chaotic post with an equally jumbled collage of images featuring art pieces both in progress and completed. Oh, and I’ll throw in my artsy graduation cap, because why not.







Art Biz with Liz: North Campus Sculptures

Next week is already the last week of classes, and the following week is graduation! At this point, I don’t think I’m going to finish everything on my U-M/Ann Arbor bucket list, but I was able to check off another item this past week.

This past Thursday, my instructor for RCARTS 270 switched things up and had us meet on North Campus instead of our usual classroom/art studio. I was excited to learn that one of the many sculptures and art installations we were to see was “The Wave Field.” I don’t remember how I first learned about it, but I had heard of The Wave Field during my freshman or sophomore year at U-M. For those who aren’t familiar with it, The Wave Field is an earthen sculpture on North Campus. Designed and created by Maya Lin, it is one of three, the other two being in New York and Florida. Lin is well known for creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC, so it was cool to see one of her works right here in Ann Arbor.

The ebb and flow of the waves create different shadows depending on the time of day. We visited The Wave Field during the sunniest part of the day, so I didn’t witness this as much. It was fun to run up and down the waves, however, and equally nice to simply relax against the small hills. Although not necessarily a momentous event or activity, visiting The Wave Field had been on my bucket list, and I was glad to be able to do. It’s slightly hidden away on the side of the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Building, but I encourage anyone remotely interested to take a trip to North Campus and visit this piece (especially since the weather is warming up).

We were able to see many other sculptures and buildings on campus I had never seen or heard of. For many students on Central Campus, North Campus is a mystery. If you don’t have a class or other reason to go there, you might not visit often, so it was a delight to walk around and see different works of art. Philip N. Stewart’s rotating 3 Cubes in a 7 Axis Relationship was by far my favorite, but Alexander Liberman’s reddish orange Begob was also neat to see. Below are some highlights (all photos were taken by yours truly this past Tuesday).

BEGOB – Alexander Liberman, 1996
INDEXER II – Kenneth Snelson, 2002
HOB NOB – Clement Meadmore, 2007

Art Biz with Liz – Singing One Last Time

Hello, readers! I want to start by apologizing for my brief hiatus from arts, ink. due to some personal issues. I am back and active for my last month at Michigan. Speaking of it being my final month, there are going to be a lot of “lasts” coming up, including my last UM Women’s Glee Club (WGC) concert. This blog post includes the typical advertisement that I normally provide for the upcoming concert, but I am more so going to focus on how the club, traditional UM songs, and music overall have had a positive impact on my time at the university.

May be an image of text that says 'The University of Michigan Women's Glee Club Presents The Sound of All of us Echoes from the past, Voices for the future Conducted by Dr. Julie Skadsem Spring Concert April 2, 2022 Hill Auditorium'

I don’t think it will hit me until after the concert that this will be the last time I get to sing “The University” or “Varsity/Victors” on stage. I used to joke that you weren’t a real Michigan fan if all you knew was part of “The Victors,” which is just a snippet of the extensive library of traditional UM songs. Although nearly everyone on campus is familiar with the main chorus of “The Victors,” I’d argue that many people do not know the words to the beginning of the song (everything before “Hail! to the victors valiant”), which I have held close to my heart since learning them through the UM Women’s Glee Club. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether you know these songs or not, but they have helped generate a sense of camaraderie and school spirit I might not have had otherwise.

I credit music and the UM Women’s Glee Club for making me feel more connected to the university. Not only was I able to find another community and make new friends, but I could continue to engage with the arts even if they weren’t my main academic focus. Learning “Blues” pieces, as mentioned in previous posts, also helped me feel connected to school spirit in a unique way. At sports games, I always felt immense school spirit during chants and songs. Singing songs such as “Go Blue” sung in SSAA by Phillip A. Duey (not to be confused with the short “Let’s Go Blue” commonly played at sports games) and “I Want to Go Back to Michigan” elicits even stronger feelings of loyalty and enthusiasm for my school and the memories I’ve made here.

There is always the beautiful and traditional “Yellow and Blue,” but I can already tell that the UM WGC’s arrangement of “College Days” by Donald A. Kahn and Earl V. Moore will be the song that makes me teary-eyed on stage. If you haven’t heard it before, check out the first few lyrics:

I’ll ne’re forget my college days

Those dear, sincere old college days

I’ll ne’re forget my Michigan

‘Twas there long friendships first began

I’m not going to pretend to be the biggest Michigan fan. I don’t know the names of athletes, I can’t promise I’ll be back for future football games (as much as I loved them as a student), and I owe too much in student loans to be comfortable with paying a fortune on more UM gear at the MDen. But the UM songs I’ve learned as a WGC member spur fond, nostalgic feelings, and I haven’t even graduated yet. I’m not surprised that music has that effect.

Our senior song this year, “In My Life” by The Beatles, also provokes strong feelings. To me, the song is about both the past and the present. I mean, take a look at these lyrics:

Though I know I’ll never lose affection

For people and things that went before

I know I’ll often stop and think about them

In my life, I love you more

There are certainly feelings of nostalgia and appreciation for the past, which is bittersweet as the seniors move on from college. But there is also great hope for the present and the future in the way the lyrics compare a current love to the things the singer cared about deeply before. In applying the message to our own lives, there is immense admiration for the past (i.e., college), but there are even greater things to come (i.e., our futures). I like how this theme also relates to the overall subject of the concert, which is “Echoes from the past, Voices for the future.”

UM WGC is one thing I will be sad to say goodbye to, but I am thankful for all the memories and music. I am looking forward to this Saturday and singing in Hill Auditorium one last time. :’)

If you’re interested in attending the concert, click here!

Art Biz with Liz: SCAD Museum of Art

Sorry for this post being one day late, everyone! I’m currently recovering from a small ailment, not to mention I am still on spring break mode. Speaking of spring break, even though we had a week off of classes, I couldn’t go a week without art! Over the weeklong vacation, I accompanied a group of friends to Savannah, Georgia, where we enjoyed sunshine and a temporary shift away from Michigan’s below freezing temperatures. Savannah was a beautiful Southern getaway, where we admired architecture, did a ghost tour, and walked beneath curtains of Spanish moss. One thing we enjoyed among all the food and activities was art.

We visited the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) Museum of Art and saw an array of temporary exhibitions on views, such as “Morality Sucks,” by Carter Flachbarth (B.F.A., painting, 2020), a series of paintings showcasing a male figure with elongated limbs that reflect the anxieties of current events through various narratives. Another exhibition was a group exhibition called “Icons Only,” featuring icons of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Another exhibit was Barthélémy Toguo’s “Urban Requiem,” made from a a variety of mediums. A neat part of this exhibition was an interactive element, where visitors could write messages on postcards for the artist. This contributes to the themes of hope and activism conveyed through Toguo’s work, which seeks to address sociological and ecological dilemmas. There was also an emphasis on the Black Lives Matter movement and the global events like refugee crises.

There were many other neat exhibitions and works of art we saw. Visiting art museums is one of my favorite activities when visiting a new place, and I’m glad we were able to visit this one!

Art Biz with Liz: UMMA Exhibition Spotlight

It’s quite amazing how, at the University of Michigan, we have several fantastic museums right on campus. One such museum is the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA). I like going to the (free!) art museum every so often to see the rotating exhibits, but prior to last week, it had been over a year since I visited the UMMA in person. I had the opportunity to visit the museum with my art class last week, and I enjoyed my visit so much I went again today.

Walking into the Marvin H. Davidson Gallery, my initial impression was that much of the art seemed similar in style and focus. Variations of painted portraits featured a range of white, wealthy individuals staring back at me. The art was part of an exhibit called “Unsettling Histories: Legacies of Slavery and Colonialism.” One sculpture, Untitled (bird cage, re-lynching) by Tyree Guyton, diverged from the portraits surrounding it. At first glance, it appeared to be a simple birdcage, but the longer I stood in front of it, the more I took away from it.

According to the sculpture’s description, the artist, Tyree Guyton, “frequently uses found objects to explore social and political themes.” Standing on its own, the birdcage is covered in paint and contorted, the metal jutting inwards and outwards in several directions. The movement of the main birdcage is contrasted by the stillness of its stand. At first, I thought it represented being “trapped,” but there could be other interpretations on the use of a birdcage. For example, there is duality in thinking about who was likely to own birdcages and what they represented, such as wealth and aristocracy. I perceived the birdcage to reflect not only the potential wealth of such slaveowners, but their view of slaves as property and less than human. Although not exactly on the topic of lynching and castration, the metal bell, another found object inside the birdcage, again reminded me of slavery. According to sources such as the Louisiana Digital Library, collars with bells might have been used to deter slaves who had previously tried to run away from doing so again. The United States flag, the last object in the birdcage, links the abominable practice to our country and its origins.

While the piece itself is untitled, the description of the art provides context in that it was common to castrate the Black men being lynched. Lynching itself was a horrifying and despicable practice, and castration added a physical attack on Black masculinity. The sculpture’s label also noted that castration was particularly common for those accused of sexually assaulting a white woman, perpetuating stereotypes of Black men being predatory.

This piece isn’t quite as abstract or unclear in meaning as some of other works I saw at UMMA, but there are certain aspects that even after reading the description could be up to interpretation. The purpose of the splatter of colors, for example, is unclear. To me, they reflect a kind of chaotic energy, and the red reminds me of shed blood. Still, even without knowing the information on the sculpture’s label, it’s possible to infer similar symbolism given the exhibition title and the sculpture’s combination of a United States flag, metal bell, and replica human phallus all trapped within the birdcage surrounded by portraits of wealthy white individuals.

This piece is powerful in its reflection on historical events, especially those that pertain to dark parts of our country’s history. My identity has made me privileged in that I cannot even begin to fathom what it is like to experience or fully relate to the themes and history reflected by this art, but the sculpture attracted me to it from both an emotional and intellectual standpoint. One of my first thoughts seeing this piece was, quite honestly, “is that a penis?” I think provoking such responses works in the artist’s favor, engaging the viewer and being upfront with topics that some might consider difficult to acknowledge or discuss

I’m not the only one who was interested in the exhibit, and I won’t be the last. If you’re at all interested, I encourage you to visit the UMMA, whether online or in person, or read more about the “Unsettling Histories” exhibition here.

Art Biz with Liz: Arranging for the Carillon

When it comes to music theory, I’m at a little bit of a loss. I can read notes and rhythms, but I struggle with things such as the nuances between types of chords. I was a little bit nervous, then, when it came to arranging my own piece of music, particularly for the carillon, of which I’m still a beginner at. Luckily, I had a plethora of resources at my fingertips and chose a song I was already familiar with, “All I ask of You” by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The song already works well on its own, and it’s recognizable if you were to play it on a piano or hum the melody. It has a strong melody with existing movement and shape, which made my job a lot easier.

A huge part of arranging the piece was considering the instrument I was arranging for, the carillon. I referenced several existing resources, like “Composing for Carillon” by Joey Brink in NewMusicBox magazine and “Arranging for Carillon” by Rachel. I also referenced existing piano scores. Doing so made me think about the physical limitations of playing the song the carillon. For the most part, when playing on the piano, it’s easy to traverse across different areas on the keyboard. With the carillon, on the other hand, quick jumps between octaves or otherwise maintaining a large gap between the hands or feet can be challenging. It may be difficult to play an interval of more than a tenth in the feet, for example, or more than two octaves in the hands due to the spacing of the keys, which are farther apart than those on a piano.

Another interesting aspect of arranging for the carillon is acknowledging that once a bell is struck, it stops on its own accord. There are several things to consider related to this. For one, it can be difficult to play repeated notes in the lower register, as the heaviness of the clapper can make the batons for lower bells take longer to return. Additionally, the inability to dampen the bells can make it difficult to write sudden harmonic changes, which can sound blurred. As the carillon produces rich, thick sound and lower notes can be sustained for quite some time, it’s advised to spread out harmonies and reduce thick cords. This includes avoiding unnecessary repetition of chords and combining two voices into one. The bass register isn’t the best for busy rhythms and chordal accompaniment, but I learned that you can play around with moving them up an octave or two or reducing some notes/rhythms for simplicity. These sound properties of the carillon are different from some other instruments and are worth considering when arranging a piece. For my arrangement, this meant removing some harmonies from the bass clef and considering ways to incorporate them elsewhere.

Carillons are also interesting in that each instrument is different. Some carillons have 2-3 octaves, while others might have 4.5+ octaves (such as our two carillons at U of M). I arranged my piece with the Baird Carillon in mind, but if you want to ensure that your song sounds okay on all instruments, Perfecto notes that the safest choice is “to avoid keys with more than three flats or sharps” (Arranging for Carillon). Historical carillons were often tuned in meantone, which means the intervals were tuned to sound best in C major. Key signatures with more than 3 flats or sharps, depending on the instrument, can sound out of tune. The original “All I Ask of You” was in D-flat major, but I arranged my piece in D major, which I later transposed to F major.

As I mentioned earlier, “All I Ask of You,” already has a well-defined melody. The simpler musical texture and limited number of independent voices allow for greater clarity when playing on the carillon. This made it easier to choose which elements were absolutely essential to the piece early on in the arrangement process. After creating a skeleton score, I received feedback from my carillon instructor each week until other elements such as dynamics were added.

This was my first time arranging something, and it was actually quite fun! Now onto playing the piece.



Perfecto, Rachel. “Arranging for Carillon: An Online Guide.”