Five University of Iowa faculty members will create new scholarly and creative works with the help of the Arts and Humanities Initiative (AHI). Their projects, which were awarded through a competitive internal review process, will enable the UI scholars to compose operas, commission a concerto, film a documentary, bring together pottery artists for an international symposium, and deconstruct the role of race in the debate over reproductive rights.
The Office of the Vice President for Research backs AHI, a grant program that supports scholars in the humanities or creative, visual, and performing arts. AHI supports up to $7,500 for a standard grant, $10,000 for a major conference, and $30,000 for a major project grant.
“For 24 years, AHI has supported scholars in the humanities or creative, visual, and performing arts,” said Kristy Nabhan-Warren, associate vice president for research, professor and V.O. and Elizabeth Kahl Figge Chair of Catholic Studies. “The awards often provide seed funding for projects that can shape a scholar’s career.”
Major Project Grants
Kembrew McLeod, professor, communication studies, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS)
“HANSEN Documentary Film”
McLeod’s fourth documentary film — HANSEN, a working title — will trace the cultural influence of a multigenerational bohemian family of artists. While genre-blending musician Beck is the most famous member of the Hansen family, his grandfather, Al Hansen, was a ubiquitous figure in the New York City underground arts scenes during the postwar era. Beck’s mother, Bibbe, grew up within those worlds, spending time on the downtown’s streets and in Andy Warhol’s Factory studio, and she shared her creative passion with Beck and his brother Channing, an innovative visual artist whose works are housed in museums and galleries around the world. Through the lens of Bibbe Hansen’s experiences, this documentary will chronicle the American avant-garde and its influence on pop culture during the second half of the twentieth century. HANSEN is based on a book that McLeod is currently researching that builds directly on his 2018 book, The Downtown Pop Underground, which also featured Bibbe and Al Hansen.
Kenneth Tse, professor, School of Music, CLAS
“Grammy-nominated composer Lowell Liebermann Writes Major Concerto for School of Music Faculty Kenneth Tse”
Tse will work one-on-one with world-renowned composer Lowell Liebermann on the creation of a concerto for saxophone soloist with full orchestra. Liebermann is a grammy-nominated composer whose previous concerti for solo instruments have attained worldwide popularity and success. The goal of the commission is to create a masterpiece for the saxophone repertoire by one of the great living American composers, and to bring together musical communities globally through its continued study and performance.
Major Conference Grant
Andrew Casto, associate professor, art and art history, CLAS
“The University of Iowa Talavera Pottery Symposium”
Casto will spearhead the creation of an international symposium celebrating the craftsmanship of modern-day Talavera pottery artists. Talavera, a Mexican style of white, tin-glazed pottery with ties to Renaissance-era Italian Maiolica, has had little scholarly attention due to its mass production by corporate studios. Visiting Talavera artists from Puebla, Mexico, an Italian Maiolica artist, and a Maiolica historian, will conduct symposium workshops and demonstrations, and the curator of decorative arts at The Hispanic Society of America Museum and Library would deliver the keynote. The UI Stanley Museum of Art will display works created at the event, and Casto will include the project in the ceramics curriculum in the following semester, reaching 150 students.
Lina-Maria Murillo, assistant professor, gender, women’s, and sexuality studies, CLAS
“Borderlands of Abortion Care: Demographic Fears, White Supremacy, and Abortion in America”
Murillo’s single-author monograph examines the nearly 160-year history of abortion access and reproductive rights and the connection to white supremacist fears of changing demographics in the United States. Murillo will trace how fears about the changing racial demographics of the US in the 19th century eventually led to a patchwork of states with conflicting laws since the Supreme Court struck down the right to an abortion in 2022. Murillo will explore how over the course of three centuries, both those in favor of and opposed to greater access to abortion and contraception have tied their arguments to maintaining white power structures in the US.
Lisa Schlesinger, professor, theatre arts, CLAS
“The Iphigenia Project: Three transdisciplinary operas addressing forced migration in a time of global conflict and climate crisis”
Schlesinger is the librettist and conceptual instigator of The Iphigenia Project, a trio of transdisciplinary operas written in response to the global refugee crisis. The project follows the plight of refugees, particularly women and children, caught in the on-going wars in the middle east, the routes they travel to escape violence, and the histories/stories they carry with them. Postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Iphigenia Point Blank, composed by Syrian musician Kinan Azmeh, will premiere at the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture, accompanied by an immersive installation by Syrian visual artist Kevork Mourad. The second opera, Ruinous Gods: Suites for Sleeping Children, composed by Layale Chaker of Lebanon, will premiere at the Spoleto Festival USA in May 2024 and tour with the Wuppertal Opera and Nederlandse Reisopera. Chaker is also composing the final opera, Enheduanna Rising, which is in the preliminary research stages.