Team Feature: Meet Cayenne Harris!

Cayenne Harris – Vice President, Education & Community Engagement at UMS (University Musical Society)

Hi! I’m Cayenne. I was born and raised in Northern California but I’ve lived on the East Coast and Midwest for most of my adult life. I currently work for UMS (University Musical Society) overseeing public programming. I adopted a puppy this year and she is currently the focus of my time away from work! We love to explore all of the natural beauty of this region on long walks.

Tell us about how you got involved in the “Talking Hearts” project. How has the project evolved in your opinion?

I’ve been involved for over a year now. The project has a evolved a lot! Early ideas were developed then passed into new hands and have evolved really beautifully and in keeping with the current needs/interests of campus and non-campus communities.

What do “Heart Maps” mean to you?

“Heart Maps” to me evoke something that is maybe difficult to express through words or numbers but that can be better expressed through art. They are personal, authentic, and human.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself!

I love to read horoscopes! I’m not sure I’m a true believer in astrology but I love the notion that we might be destined for certain things based on when and where we were born.

What would be your ideal way to spend a rainy day?

Reading by a fire with my dog at my feet.

What does ‘community’ mean to you? How has this changed?

I left Chicago after 19 years just before the pandemic and spent some lonely months as a newcomer in Ann Arbor. To my great surprise I found very welcoming community in my neighborhood (west side) and a strong connection with my new colleagues at UMS. The idea of community is deeply embedded in the work I do and in my own identity. It has definitely changed during the pandemic – I think I appreciate and crave connection so much more!

What does ‘art’ mean to you?

To me, art is what is created from the imaginations of humans. It’s an attempt to reflect back to the world (or the viewer, listener, audience member, etc.) one’s own experience or collective experience.

Favorite color, song, book and movie?

Blue, “Watching the Detectives”, The Bone People, “A Room With A View.”

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

I’d love to go to North Africa. I’ve always wanted to travel to Morocco but I recently took a DNA test and discovered that some of my ancestors came from Mali. It would be amazing to have the opportunity to travel there.

One thing you can’t live without?


What inspires you?


Who is/are your role model(s)? Why?

My role model is my grandmother, Ruth Webb. She was a leader in the early years of the Black Panther movement of the late 1960’s in Oakland California. I am inspired by her activism.

If you could swap lives with someone for a day, who would it be?

I’d love to swap lives with someone who works in textiles. I love fabrics and textures.

What are your long term goals?

My long term goals are to find sustainable health and happiness and to move toward valuing experiences over things.

Any social media handles/personal websites where our viewers can follow you?

Instagram: @cayenneh1

Featured Image Credit: U-M Hill Auditorium (

Talking Hearts UMich

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