Last weekend I visited the University of Michigan Museum of Art as a way to escape work, classes, and the dreary weather for a few hours. I mostly visited out of curiosity (to be honest, I wasn’t expecting too much from a university art museum), but I was surprised by the diversity of their collection – it’s got everything from copies of Greco-Roman statues to Buddhist sculpture, with American landscape paintings and German Expressionist prints thrown in for good measure. While the main exhibits were impressive, my favorite gallery was an exhibition on Chang Ku-nien, an artist who trained in classic Chinese landscape painting in the 20th century. Following the cultural revolution, he fled to Taiwan and he was the first to paint Taiwanese landscapes in the traditional Chinese style. In his later years, he traveled extensively throughout the United States and eventually settled in Michigan, where he began to paint the landscapes of the Upper Peninsula in the traditional Chinese style (see the image below). You can find a link to the exhibition with more examples of his work here.
It’s not related to public health (well, I could probably find a connection if I really tried…), but the university’s art museum represents one of the University of Michigan’s great advantages – it’s size. The sheer size of the university has two primary consequences: it can have excellent programs in many fields, and it draws world-class speakers (Kenneth Cole and Paul Krugman spoke at UMich last term). For students, the benefits are pretty obvious (free access to the vast majority of these events) and the diversity of the faculty mean that it’s never difficult for a student to find an expert. The faculty, at least the ones with whom I’ve had contact, are willing to help even if you’re not from their department. As an example, I’ll need to get training from medical school faculty in order to carry out my internship this summer, and to get that training all I have to is walk down the street.