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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