Portfolio > How to Build a Disaster Proof House

Artist Tracey Snelling’s How to Build a Disaster Proof House contemplates the uncertainty, displacement, and disenfranchisement that frames the present day. How do we find a safe place, protected from bad weather and circumstance, in an era of floods, fires,violence, abuse and pandemics?

Snelling finds a route for escape by constructing big and small sculptural worlds, private and public.

Snelling is at U-M this winter term as the current Roman Witt Artist in Residence. During her residency, the Institute for the Humanities Gallery and its Osterman Common Room will function as a “laboratory,” or open studio, where visitors can see the artist’s creative process as the installation evolves, and the rooms change, debunking any presumptive myth of permanence.

Snelling’s pop aesthetic incorporates prefab objects, bright colors, light, video, and sound. The work is disarming in its exuberance, reassuring us there is no such thing as a zombie under the bed, while at the same time, making room to process the very real and unsettling world in which we live.

Through workshops guided by Snelling, U-M students and others from our local and outlying communities will create small-scale rooms or dwellings…”a room of one’s own” reflective of their personal feelings and ideas about home, safety, and dreams.

The experience of crafting together articulates the fundamental importance of our relationship to one another. The myriad of rooms will be displayed ongoing in the Osterman Common Room, as well as becoming part of an installation on wheels, a mobile unit meant to travel throughout town.

The mobile installation contemplates how we measure our sense of belonging, or where we come from, in a world of ongoing transitions and migrations.

Snelling’s project fosters belonging despite all of the different ways we live and co-exist, beyond structures and times of remoteness. Concurrently, the installation embraces our everyday existence and the power of our individual and collective imagination.

In her previous 2017 Institute for the Humanities Gallery exhibition Here and There, Snelling pushed up against the challenges of economic inequities, racial biases, and imposed class divisions that often limit the options available to so many people.

“The ongoing lack of affordable health care, systematic racism, class division, economic downturn, and the impacts of climate change all contribute to global poverty and housing issues…," states Snelling. "By working on this project with U-M students and communities regionally, I hope to not only raise awareness of housing precarity but also be responsive together as a community...to the challenges facing our fellow citizens.”

-Amanda Krugliak Arts Curator

The overall project How To Build a Disaster Proof House is curated by Amanda Krugiak, Arts Curator and Assistant Director of Arts Programming at the Institute for the Humanities in collaboration with Chrisstina Hamilton, Director of the Roman Witt Residency Program at the Stamps School. Tracey Snelling is the Stamps 2022 Roman Witt Artist in Residence.

The project has included workshops with groups across the U-M campus and further afield in the regional community at spaces including the Ann Arbor Art Center (A2AC), The Shelter Association of Washtenaw County at the Robert J. Delonis Center and Freighthouse Day Shelter, Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti; and shelter for New Americans in Hamtramck. Thanks to U-M student and Delonis caseworker Alexzandra McCrum, A2AC Gallery Director Ashley Miller, Stamps MDes students and Stamps professor Nick Tobier for all of your guidance and help facilitating these outreach engagements.

The Disaster Proof mobile unit was exhibited at the 60th Ann Arbor Film Festival in the Michigan Theater, Tuesday March 22 - Sunday March 27, 2022. Snelling’s short film A Poem is a City, created in collaboration with Arthur Debert, was in competition as part of this year’s AAFF programming. A Disaster Proof community installation will appear at the Ann Arbor Art Center April to August.

Institute for the Humanities, Penny W Stamps School of Art & Design
March 16 to April 29, 2022