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Spencer Museum of Art awarded $487K for interdisciplinary arts research

Monday, January 25, 2016

LAWRENCE — The Spencer Museum of Art has announced a $487,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to launch the Spencer’s Integrated Arts Research Initiative (IARI). This award supports interdisciplinary research efforts among the art museum and partners at the University of Kansas and beyond.

“This new initiative will strengthen our capacity to inspire and support scholarship that integrates the arts, sciences and humanities,” said Saralyn Reece Hardy, Marilyn Stokstad Director of the Spencer Museum of Art. “Mellon support will create new opportunities for emerging and established scholars to collaborate with the museum.”

The IARI will be overseen by Reece Hardy and administered by Celka Straughn, the Spencer Museum of Art Andrew W. Mellon Director of Academic Programs, and Stephen Goddard, associate director and senior curator.

Grant-funded research activities
With support from the Mellon Foundation, the IARI will stimulate research in several ways during the four-year grant period. The art museum will create a full-time position for an assistant curator of research who will coordinate collaborative research efforts and foster new scholarly partnerships. The grant also makes possible numerous fellowship opportunities for faculty and students at KU to conduct research with museum staff and collections. A portion of the award will support visiting scholars and creative specialists to further develop projects through external connections and expertise.

The first fellowships will take place during summer 2016, and the museum of art will host a colloquium to introduce IARI to the KU community in fall 2016. Information about fellowship applications and the symposium will be forthcoming. 

Interdisciplinary research across campus
The IARI builds on the success of the Spencer’s Department of Academic Programs and the Arts Research Collaboration (ARC), which advanced interdisciplinary work with university faculty and students. ARC, a three-year program funded by the KU Research Investment Council, was implemented in partnership with KU’s Biodiversity Institute, Information and Telecommunication Technology Center and Department of Visual Art.

Major ARC projects included a creative residency at the art museum by Portuguese choreographer João Fiadeiro and the international conference Hybrid Practices in the Arts, Sciences & Technology from the 1960s to Today. IARI will continue ARC’s emphasis on collaborative partnerships across disciplines, focusing on more long-term research projects and greater student involvement.

“IARI will strengthen engagement with university audiences and collaborators by providing opportunities for motivated students and faculty to move from one-off engagements with the museum — such as class visits — to more sustained interactions over the course of one semester, one year or a multiyear period,” said Celka Straughn, Spencer Museum Academic Programs director.

Significance for KU and the Spencer Museum of Art
Ultimately, the IARI will further integrate the arts and arts research into the intellectual and creative fabric of the university and advance a campuswide culture of interdisciplinary collaboration. The art museum’s initiative will establish a model for university art museums as significant contributors to rigorous scholarly inquiry within and throughout their larger academic institutions.

“We are honored to receive this generous grant from the Mellon Foundation,” said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. “The university is proud to be home to the Spencer Museum of Art, and this grant will help us find new ways to expand the museum’s reach and further integrate the arts into our work across the university in ways that benefit our students, faculty and the society we serve.”

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