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March 22, 2005

A talking house: U-M students devise plan to control drinking

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Pssst. Hey you. Should you be drinking that?

"House Confessions: Vinyl Tidings Bring Good Sidings," featuring Homie the Talking House, is a new student initiative that addresses safe drinking and responsible party behavior.

Homie is a sculptural installation on an actual house structure constructed by University of Michigan students reaching out to classmates and young adults attending off-campus house parties. Homie has had bad drinking experiences and discusses them with passing partygoers.

House Confessions will be installed on the front wall, roof and yard of a house in a student-populated neighborhood near the U-M campus where a multitude of off-campus parties take place. Installation dates are April 1 and 2, and Sept. 23 and 24 at 629 S. Division St. in Ann Arbor.

The installation comprises a montage of illuminated screens of text and image depicting a party scene. The screens are placed over windows and roofline to articulate the house structure, while a central screen is set for the conversation between Homie and partygoers who communicate through a microphone connected to a speaker inside the house.

A member of the newly formed Neighborhood Arts Committee (NAC) listens and communicates through a computer/video projector. The illuminated screen creates a face on the front of the house, revealing a personified image of Homie.

According to the NAC, Homie is designed to encourage partygoers to contemplate their own partying/drinking habits without necessarily having to share them, placing the focus on Homie as the one who needs assistance. It is hoped this contemplation will result in conscious behavior and responsibility. Homie also provides aid, which may include water, food, designated driving service and information on local organizations concerning the issues of partying/drinking.

The NAC has six members, five of whom are U-M undergraduates with study concentrations ranging from engineering and fine arts to nursing and English. The installation will encourage conscious behavior and responsibility, in hopes of a healthy night, rather than suggesting a prohibition of such activity, said NAC member Christopher Bradley.

"We hope that the project won't be seen as another authoritative figure preaching the rights and wrongs of social drinking and party-going, but rather to engage the party population from their perspective on how to handle a night of partying—and perhaps many nights of partying," Bradley said. "We believe this assertion on safe partying/drinking can be made through a student-to-student relationship, from one young adult to another."

The NAC believes its effort is strongly needed to confront the issue of partying and drinking as a major community concern, Bradley says.

"We have looked over efforts and approaches taken by other safe drinking initiatives, such as U-M's University Health Services Task Force on Alcohol Misuse and Excessive Use, and feel we have a unique approach to add to the cause," he said.

The NAC plans to take House Confessions to other college campuses around the country. So far, sites at Michigan State University, Rutgers University and the University of Colorado have been investigated for future installment.

The NAC worked closely with University Health Services, the School of Art & Design and other units of the Michigan Student Assembly. Sadashi Inuzuka, professor of sculpture at the School of Art and Design, advised NAC on using art as an approach to its mission.

 

Contact: Joanne Nesbit
Phone: (734) 647-4418
E-mail: mjnesbit@umich.edu