About the Arts & Humanities Initiative (AHI) Program
Examples of successful proposals (HawkID and password required)

March 2021 AHI Awardees
October 2020 AHI Awardees

The Office of the Vice President for Research is proud to present the March 2020 Arts & Humanities Initiatives (AHI) Program Awardees:

Rachel Cox, Assistant Professor, School of Art and Art History
Arts & Humanities Initiative Standard Grant 

Mors Scena: Preserving Iowa's Historic Funeral Homes 

This proposal will support the finalization of my photographic project, Mors Scena.  This series will record historic, small-town, funeral homes across Iowa which are steadily being replaced by more technologically advanced corporate venues. Drawing from personal experiences with the funeral arrangements of family members, and research culled from the histories of modern-day funerary practices, I make photographs that not only record the historical funeral homes of the midwest, but explore cultural attitudes surrounding death.

Specifically, I focus my camera on the viewing areas, lounges, and social spaces that comprise the majority of these establishments. These are the spaces where people gather for support, grief, and healing. The relative expanse, and abundance of smaller communities, has given Iowa an extraordinary amount of historical funeral homes. The project began in August of 2018 and 17 funeral homes have been photographed to date. With AHI support, that includes a trained photographic assistant, I will photograph 24 more funeral homes over the next 12 to 18 months.

The successful completion of this series will be impactful in multiple ways. First, it will preserve the history and legacy of the funeral chapels and houses of rural towns. Secondly, as an educator and artist I am always looking to explore innovative approaches in my field. The flexible nature of how the project defines documentary photography, combined with more subjective interpretations of history, aims to encourage other artists, as well as inspire students, to pursue creative works that challenge outdated fine art photographic genre expectations. Lastly, the project has been selected by the Des Moines Art center as part of their Iowa Artist 2020 series where I will have a solo exhibition of the project at the end of the year. The Art Center curators choose artists whose creative works exemplify compelling contemporary approaches to their chosen medium. The series will be on display for nearly 3 months at a major museum, seen by hundreds of patrons daily, as well as be the content for a weekly docent tour.

John Doershuk, State Archaeologist, Office of the State Archaeologist
Major Project Grant

Origins of Ancient Village Life on the Plains of Northwest Iowa

This project seeks to contribute new understanding to a central issue in archaeology, “why did settled village life evolve?” This important cultural transformation is evident in the archaeological record from multiple places around the world, including northwest Iowa. The change occurred at different times at different places, prompting questions about the factors associated with what becomes a fundamental shift in how human groups regarded both the natural landscape and the form and structure of their communities. The transformation, from generally small-scale mobile groups to the emergence of larger settled communities, took place in northwest Iowa sometime after AD 1000. This project will analyze data recently available from an early Mill Creek culture site, 13PM7, to address the emergence of village life in the region. Available information includes copious stone, pottery, plant, and animal bone archaeological artifacts as well as feature (e.g., storage pit and hearth) data. Grant funds are requested to analyze these data and support limited field work focused on collecting landform and community layout information critical to fully understanding the contextual relationships of the artifacts and features. Extraction and geoarchaeological description of deep soil cores, UAS (drone) collection of aerial photogrammetry and thermography data, and geophysical remote sensing will cost-effectively supplement analyses of the feature and artifact data already in-hand. The measurable effectiveness of this effort will be increased communication about endangered places analogous to 13PM7 which helps minimize loss of information about the past and increase appreciation and understanding of the origins and value of cultural diversity. The direct beneficiaries of these efforts include (1) the people of Iowa who depend on OSA to discover, document, and disseminate significant information about Iowa’s past; (2) American Indian descendants of the Mill Creek archaeological cultural tradition whose ancestors created and lived at 13PM7 and related sites in northwest Iowa and who today consider these areas part of their traditional homeland; and (3) the general public who benefit from contributions to the greater humanities knowledge base and specifically from better understanding of the cultural processes involved in the major societal shift toward village life that eventually came to dominate world-wide.

Timothy Havens, Professor, Departments of Communication Studies and African American Studies
Major Conference Grant

“Behind the S(cr)een: African Americans in the Entertainment Industries”

“Behind the S(cr)een: African Americans in the Entertainment Industries” is currently scheduled for April 1-3, 2021. The conference brings together Black Hollywood creative workers, especially those working behind the scenes, and scholars who study racial diversity in Hollywood television and film. We already have a $30,000 budget from the Obermann Center, and are seeking AHI Funding to help cover the remainder of the cost of the conference.

Once seen in simplistic terms as a force that steamrolled creativity and complexity of representation, the entertainment industries have been recast in media and cultural studies as conflicted and contradictory spaces that produce and channel particular forms of creativity and diversity of representation, rather than restrict them. The big questions we seek to explore in this symposium is this: How do the demands and incentives of the contemporary entertainment industries enable and disable the employment and autonomy of creatives of color? And what can be done to diversify the workplace in Hollywood?

We expect several significant outcomes from this symposium, including:

  • publishing an edited anthology/research aid for scholars and practitioners interested in diversifying Hollywood; this will be a collection of essays based on the interviews we conducted as well as full transcripts of the interviews. We would hope to place the book in the Humanities and Public Life series at Iowa University Press.
  • innovating curricular developments in Cinematic Arts and Communication Studies in partnership with the Screenwriting BA in Cinematic Arts and a new undergraduate certificate in Digital Television Production in Communication Studies; these innovations would include bringing creative workers of color in to teach workshops throughout the year as well as promotional efforts to draw students of color interested in these initiatives to the University of Iowa
  • using the conference as a springboard to help University of Iowa students, particularly students of color, enter the media industries
  • applying for an external grant, likely a Ford Foundation Creativity and Free Expression, which has funded projects on diversity and Hollywood in the past.

Elizabeth Heineman, Professor, Department of History
Arts & Humanities Initiative Standard Grant 

Children, Transported

Between December 1938 and August 1939, 10,000 German-Jewish children sailed to Britain with the “Kindertransport,” or Children’s Transport. The immediate impetus was the “Night of Broken Glass” of November 9-10, 1938, in which Nazi agents burned synagogues, vandalized Jewish property, beat Jews, and interned 30,000 Jewish men in concentration camp. In response, Great Britain admitted Jewish children – under the condition that they leave their parents behind. Parents who never would have considered breaking up their families now took this desperate step. Few of the children saw their parents again. Two who did were my father and his brother. Far from a “happy ending,” reunion revealed that the family was irretrievably broken. Family members processed their trauma and adapted to postwar life in ways that made communication impossible. I am completing a book entitled Children, Transported, which embeds the Kindertransport experience in a multi-generation family history. The AHI will support a research trip to Jerusalem as well as a short course on Talmud study in Chicago. 

Jennifer Kayle, Associate Professor, Department of Dance
Arts & Humanities Initiative Standard Grant

Turns at the Intersection: The Power of Uncertain Routes

“Turns at the Intersection” is a creative research project resulting in an evening-length choreography. The primarily studio-based research draws on notions of feminist “intersectionality,” and urban design concepts of “shared space” to guide creative methodology; experimentation will deploy uncertainty as a tactic to heighten attention, careful listening, negotiation, and meaningful exchange, both as artistic process and product. The rotary, or traffic circle, a popular structure in “shared space,” will serve as a basis for translation and adaptation in the overall staging of the project, establishing a circular audience and performance orientation where looking, looking at our looking, and circular flow are central to the impact of the event. Examining the diverse and intersectional identities of the PI and the cast (African-American, white, male-bodied, female-bodied, queer, straight, etc.) will have central importance in the content of the work, and in the research process. At the intersection of layered identities and their social privileges or oppressions, the intersection of imposed structure and uncertainty, the intersection of audience and performer, this creative research stages some possibilities for navigating, with mutual responsiveness, the spaces where diverse bodies meet. Outcomes include an evening-length draft of the choreography, informal test performances in the 3 home cities of the artists, an international premiere in Madrid, Spain, and in phase 2, securing external funding for national/international performance. With numerous showings and performances at home and abroad, public impact will be far-reaching; by taking up issues of identity and social power alongside those of creative process and performance, the project impact contributes to both artistic and social innovation.

Julia Leonard, Associate Professor, Center for the Book
Arts & Humanities Standard Grant

Digital Book Art Database

The Digital Book Art Database (DBAD) describes the physical and material aspects of book art materials held in the UI Libraries Special Collections. The core of the project is a database consisting of extensive search capabilities for material aspects of the book crafts. The database is supported by a thesaurus defining search terms employed, material introducing the project and offering instruction on using the database, essays exposing users to the field of book studies/book arts, and finally, periodic blog posts written by UI faculty and students on specific pieces held in the collections. Research into the book arts and book studies is often hampered by collections with limited access (closed stacks) and basic catalog entries that are not designed to describe objects. With material book studies, the object itself and the making of that object is a primary point of research. This includes physical attributes and the materials and processes used in order to create the works in question; for example, where and when it was made, what print processes were employed (if any), what materials were used, where the book was bound and the paper made, and, the various writers, craftspeople, and artists involved in each aspect of production. The database will include and make searchable these particulars for each entry along with relevant photographs and a brief narrative of the work described. The work needed to accomplish this project will be conducted by UI Center for the Book (UICB) faculty Julia Leonard and Karen Carcia, with assistance from UICB students and colleagues and in collaboration with the UI Special Collections staff. The DBAD is an educational site and a research tool, providing in-depth descriptive material to scholars and artists engaged in book history, book studies, and book art. Bringing these materials on-line will make visible the remarkable materials held in the UI Special Collections. It highlights the book arts and related fields of study, and aims to reveal the connectivity between various publishing, art and craft activities. Those who will benefit from this resource include artist practitioners, scholars, archivists, curators, and librarians.

Thomas Oates, Associate Professor, Department of American Studies
Arts & Humanities Standard Grant

Crossover: A Cultural History of Playground Basketball

This grant would contribute to research on a book project titled Crossover: A Cultural History of Playground Basketball. The book examines how playground basketball, or “streetball” grew from a marginalized and demonized subculture to a globally recognized and commercialized sporting formation. Specifically, the grant would fund research that supports how streetball has been exhibited and taken up in European contexts. 

I propose a research trip to two sites in Northern Europe where streetball is performed. Antwerp, Belgium hosts a major annual streetball-inspired tournament in late June. In Copenhagen, Denmark, playground basketball has been uniquely deployed to meet social challenges. The nonprofit GAME has built a “streetmekka” – a recreation sites with basketball courts, parkour courses, skate parks, and other spaces designed to facilitate recreation for urban, Danish youth and create “lasting social change through youth-led street sports and culture.” In Antwerp, I would visit the tournament site and interview the organizers, promoters, and designers about their goals and choices. In Denmark, I would interview the directors, peer educators, and users of GAME Streetmekkas, and observe how “street basket” (as it is called there) is being offered and taken up in the service of larger social goals. 

This work contributes to existing scholarly literature on the commercialization of contemporary urban black masculinity in sport and beyond. My research expands the existing scholarship in three ways: (1) by explicitly linking streetball as a way to explore how the white spatial imaginary imagines and markets the iconic ghetto; (2) by exploring the transnational dimensions of the streetball; (3) and by expanding the scholarly discussion of the cultural consequences of racialized space to include sport. The result would allow a consideration of the repercussions for the politics of sport, race and space in different national/political contexts. This work would benefit scholars in a number of disciplines and fields, educators and social workers who work with urban populations, graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Iowa.

David Stern, Professor, Department of Philosophy
Arts & Humanities Standard Grant

Project to upgrade the UI Tractatus Map to include new translations of earlier drafts and diaries and show the relationship between successive drafts of Tractatus

The UI Tractatus Map, a website created by a Philosophy professor and two Philosophy graduate students in collaboration with UI Library’s Digital Studio, online since November 2016, has made a radical new version of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, one of the great works of analytic philosophy, available to a global audience. Our work to date shows how our online map of Tractatus and Prototractatus (an early version of that book) allows access to Wittgenstein’s thought in a new way. This is because the Map enables the reader to explore the crucial role played by the book’s unique scheme of numbered and nested sections and subsections. 

Thanks to a major fellowship from the NEH, tenable from June 2020 to May 2021, I will be producing the first complete and consistent translation of the book and all its German-language sources: not only Tractatus and Prototractatus, but also three wartime notebooks that are not currently part of the Map.

We are asking for funding for two major enhancements to the Map, which will enable us to include those new translations and represent the relationship between the various stages of the book’s composition in much greater detail. First, we plan to add the capacity to dynamically connect, redraw, and rearrange the current maps. This will enable us to connect comprehensively and clearly the finished Tractatus both with Prototractatus, its earlier counterpart, and their original manuscript sources. Second, we will create a new tool that charts the relationship between each sentence of Tractatus and all its sources in much greater detail. In doing so, we will achieve our long-term goal of clearly charting the genesis of Tractatus, comprehensively connecting the book with all its manuscript sources, including Prototractatus and the source notebooks. The result will be a completely new graphic version of Tractatus with far-reaching implications for the interpretation of the text, and much greater visibility for the UI Map.