Professor Michael Stipe: R.E.M.‘s Frontman Now Teaching Art Classes at NYU


stipe at nyu

Admir­ers of Michael Stipe will know that he before he became a famous rock star with R.E.M., he was an art stu­dent at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Geor­gia. He may have skipped the degree, but he nev­er stopped mak­ing things, includ­ing the pho­tog­ra­phy and design of the band’s album cov­ers, the light­ing and stage design of their live shows, and sev­er­al of their videos. Now a rock star emer­i­tus, Stipe makes things full time in an offi­cial capac­i­ty as the vis­it­ing artist and schol­ar in res­i­dence at the NYU Stein­hardt Depart­ment of Art. He has recent­ly curat­ed an “evolv­ing exhi­bi­tion project” called NEW SIGHTS, NEW NOISE, writes Eric Alper, “pro­duced col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly with Jonathan Berg­er” and includ­ing “con­tri­bu­tions from spe­cial guests Dou­glas Cou­p­land, Jef­fer­son Hack, Peach­es,” and oth­ers.

Appear­ing at NYU’s 80 WSE Gallery, the exhi­bi­tion also includes work from Stipe’s stu­dents. That’s right, Michael Stipe is a “shiny hap­py” col­lege pro­fes­sor, as this pun-hap­py Spin arti­cle tells us, and the show comes from his class assign­ments: “Each week, Stipe and a dif­fer­ent spe­cial guest will give the class’ 18 stu­dents a prompt, and they’ll respond with ‘100 images and gifs, both found and made, all of which will be uploaded to a pri­vate class web­site.’” It’s all cen­tered around themes Stipe has pur­sued for some time, as you can see from his Tum­blr. He describes the project on R.E.M.’s web­site as refer­ring to “the glut and onslaught of infor­ma­tion made avail­able by the inter­net, often with­out con­text or author­ship; the dis­pro­por­tion­ate and impul­sive reac­tions that it pro­vokes, and the reck­less cyn­i­cism of a 24 hour news cycle.” Read much more about the project at Alper’s blog, and see much more of Stipe’s work—with sculp­ture, paint­ing, and film—at the Creator’s Project video above from 2011.

pho­to by David Shankbone.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Why R.E.M.’s 1991 Out of Time May Be the “Most Polit­i­cal­ly Impor­tant Album” Ever

Two Very Ear­ly Con­cert Films of R.E.M., Live in ‘81 and ‘82

R.E.M Plays “Radio Free Europe” on Their Nation­al Tele­vi­sion Debut on The David Let­ter­man Show (1983)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness.

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  • Cathy Blackman says:

    Dear Mr. Stipe,
    I am very hap­py to see that you are ful­fill­ing your dream in the arts. I am sad that I may nev­er get to hear you and Natal­ie Mer­chant sing To Sir With Love”. It is my all time favorite! Do you sing at all any more? I would give any­thing to hear you!

    Cathy Black­man

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